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Ready or not, the Single Euro Payments Area is coming. And if you think there was a lack of specificity about Sarbanes-Oxley, wait until you deal with SEPA. “The politicians are running it,” notes Cleveland-based treasury consultant Mark Webster. “There are lots of directives, but few specific regulations ready to go. The banks are behaving badly. The French are dragging their feet. The British banks have their own ideas. The goal is wonderful, but there will be chaos in the short run.”

On the other hand, the possibilities for straight through processing (STP) and banking consolidation are immense. “SEPA is bringing an opportunity for all corporations to rationalize their account structure in Europe, abandon the existing model of keeping an account in every country, use local clearing systems and move to a truly harmonized pan-European payments infrastructure,” explains Harold Young, head of payments in the global transaction banking–cash management unit of Deutsche Bank. “One set of accounts could service all their euro-denominated transaction needs.”

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