As European banks struggle to meet SEPA compliance deadlines, corporate officials are beginning to sound a lot like they did in the early years of Sarbanes-Oxley. They are grumbling about the high costs, slow payback and harsh deadlines. Sound familiar?

Six months after the first stage of SEPA, for the Single Euro Payments Area, went live, the grousing and inertia has many procrastinating and pressing for extended deadlines. "With all the regulation that banks have had in had to comply with over 10 years, it's not surprising that we're seeing the emergence of SEPA-fatigue," says Rachael Hunt, European banking research manager at IDC's Financial Insights, adding that this lethargy is similar to the weariness that set in after Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) became law.

Indeed, some consultants agree. But if there is a lesson to be learned from all the SOX toil and trouble, it is that smart corporate policies can save money in the long run by building in mechanisms that deliver solid business benefits and increased profits across an enterprise. For example, SOX pioneers and consultants have said lately that the increased speed and reduced errors wrought by automating controls will ultimately more than cover implementation costs.

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