These two questions formed the debating point at the Financial Services Club on Tuesday night, with two teams debating whether the answers were either 'Yes' or 'No'. The make up of the two teams was very reminiscent of the England versus a Rest of the World XI that you used to get at the old Wembley. No prizes for guessing which answer the respective teams were playing for in a single euro payments area (SEPA) debate.

The 'No' campaign were fully behind their argument, stating that in the current economic environment in Europe, many other issues matter far more than reaching the end game with SEPA. While SEPA needs public sector bodies to switch to its formats in order to boost widespread adoption, this is not happening across the board in Europe. One of the arguments was that SEPA has not been sold well to the end users, with SEPA Credit Transfers (SCTs) still only accounting for around a quarter of the volume of CTs in Europe, while SEPA Direct Debits (SDDs) have not even broken through the 1% volume level in the same scale. Clearly, SEPA schemes have a huge amount of ground to make up.

One of the SEPA advocates gave a defence of its perceived failings, saying that to many of the banks it seemed to be a basic compliance project falling to this business area, rather than being brought into the product area where there is a chance to innovate. However, this speaker did advise the attended club members to prepare their organisations for SEPA before the end date is announced, stating that if everyone left it until the absolute last minute, the IT resource required would be severely stretched and, if you're using outside help, very expensive.

A different member of pro-SEPA lobby pointed out that it was easy to argue that nothing was happening with SEPA if you overlook the smaller things that are occurring in different countries across Europe - citing the situation as being similar to the classic line from Monty Python's Life Of Brian: "What have the Romans ever done for us?" Such a viewpoint, it was argued, overlooked some of the work carried out in a relatively quick space of time in the field of standards - with the SEPA rulebooks and ISO 20022 being put forward as key examples of this work. 

Following a Q&A with the panel, attendees of the event voted with a show of hands on the two key questions of the event. A majority of those in the room said that yes, SEPA does matter. Perhaps not every English person in financial services is preset to oppose everything related to the euro? The result was dramatically reversed in the second question, as initially only one attendee raised their hand to agree that yes, SEPA is happening. A couple of other hands went up to support this lone champion of the cause, but the overwhelming verdict of the room was that SEPA is not happening. With the current speed of progress, or lack of it, SEPA is still in desperate need of the key driver that will inspire widespread adoption. Given the current situation in the eurozone, SEPA looks likely to limp, rather than sprint, towards full implementation.