“Talking about SEPA Migration to Small Businesses: Keep it Simple!” Sa...

“Talking about SEPA Migration to Small Businesses: Keep it Simple!” Says the Owner of Dance and Gymnastics School Girlfriends (45 Direct Debit Collections per Month)

This small business plans to complete migration to SEPA in Autumn 2013

30 July 13

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Girlfriends Dance and Gymnastics School: a safe and healthy way (back) to exercise

Created in 2010, the Cologne-based dance and gymnastics school Girlfriends offers classes and workshops in ballet, modern and jazz dance, hip hop, yoga and Pilates. Andrea Hasselbach, founder and owner of the school, also specialises in exercises designed to strengthen the spine. A certified gymnastics teacher and fitness trainer with extensive background in dance, she started her career in the early 1990s when aerobics became a global movement. “I have qualified in and taught practically every fitness trend that the industry has come up with at one time or another in the past twenty years. I enjoyed working in studios targeting the twenty-something crowd that is ready and willing to sweat through 60 minutes of high-impact training in a group of sixty and more people. This type of training however does not provide a teacher the opportunity to focus on the individual needs of clients. At the same time, many people who have not done any sports in years, or who require targeted exercise due to previous injuries, often shy away from the environment they find in the average fitness studio.” Ms Hasselbach is ambitious to keep people moving. Girlfriends, as the name suggests, offers females of all ages a safe and healthy way (back) to exercise. Groups are small, which allows her to adapt the training to the specific needs of her clients. “The focus is on sharing the joy and fun of dance and gymnastics while helping clients to gain and maintain strength, endurance, and mobility throughout life.” In line with this philosophy, Ms Hasselbach developed the ‘Pilett’ programme. It combines basic ballet technique with the elements of Pilates and offers clients the opportunity to revisit (often after decades) or experience for the first time the world of classical ballet training. ‘Pilett’ is offered exclusively at Girlfriends.

As the owner and sole staff of this small business, Ms Hasselbach’s responsibilities also include cleaning the studio, purchasing supplies, marketing her business, maintaining her website, and recruiting guest teachers. She coordinates cooperation with local health care schemes, which allow clients to be reimbursed for part of their fees paid for classes for strengthening the spine. Last but not least, she manages the accounting and payment business of the school. She offers various and flexible payment models including membership fees paid by direct debit. At this stage, Girlfriends collects 45 direct debit payments from clients monthly.

Ms Hasselbach currently plans to migrate her payment business to the Single Euro Payments Area ( ) schemes and technical standards in Autumn 2013.

The Girlfriends Dance and Gymnastics School project in progress – questions and answers

From 1 February 2014 onwards, organisations making payments in the euro area will have to carry out credit transfer and direct debit transactions in line with the core provisions set out in the European Union ( ) ‘Regulation ( ) No 260/2012 establishing technical and business requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euro’ (the Regulation). Effectively, this means that as of this date, existing national euro credit transfer and direct debit schemes will be replaced by Credit Transfer ( ) and Direct Debit ( ).

This interview reflecting the ongoing migration project of the dance and gymnastics school Girlfriends has been translated from German into English.

Newsletter: In its first Migration Report published in March 2013, the European Central Bank strongly advocates that all stakeholders on the demand side of the payments market migrate at the earliest stage possible, preferably by the third quarter of 2013 at the latest. With its conclusions reached in May 2013, the Council of the representing Member States invited payment service users including small businesses to “immediately take the necessary concrete internal steps” to become ready for . The European Payments Council ( ) frequently stated, including in this newsletter, that it fully supports these recommendations. Are these recommendations of relevance with regard to the Girlfriends migration project?

Andrea Hasselbach: No. I was not aware of these particular recommendations, because I do not read English language publications issued by the European institutions or the primarily due to the language barrier. This being said, my bank has conveyed the same message to me on many occasions in my native language.

However, I have other plans for the third quarter of 2013. I will focus on several non- related business projects during the summer. It is also the only time of the year when I can take a couple of weeks off and I will not cancel my holidays for . So, my business will not be -ready by the end of September 2013.

Newsletter: When are you planning to make the transition?

Andrea Hasselbach: I am currently considering switching my payment business to and in October 2013.

Newsletter: As a business owner located in the euro area, how have you become aware of the legal obligation to carry out credit transfer and direct debit payments in line with the requirements established by the Regulation as of 1 February 2014?

Andrea Hasselbach: In the past year, my bank sent me a very comprehensive brochure, two letters, various booklets, and three emails informing me on the obligation to achieve compliance with this European law by 1 February 2014. I find these alerts with my account statements as well, when logging into the online banking interface and in a newsfeed for business customers that my bank offers. Last but not least, the subject has been covered several times by our local newspaper. So, I have been aware for many months that there is something related to payments and Europe in the pipeline, which impacts my business. However, I didn’t look at the information in detail until a few weeks ago.

Newsletter: Why not?

Andrea Hasselbach: When I first started receiving the information from my bank last year, 1 February 2014 sounded like a long time off. Considering the many immediate matters I have to take care of in the day-to-day management of my business, was not a priority for me. The information I received was also very comprehensive; i.e. I knew I had to really carve out the time to sit down and work through this. So, for months I just diligently filed away the brochures and the booklets with the firm intention to study it whenever my schedule would allow.

I think one also has to take into account that if you run a small business that operates primarily locally, you are simply very much accustomed to making and collecting payments in an established way. To be honest, I never spent a thought in my life on differences between ‘payment schemes’ or related technical formats or standards. So, when I first heard about , European direct debits and credit transfers, International Bank Account Number (IBAN) and Business Identifier Code (BIC), it all sounded very remote and abstract to me. In short, ‘migrating to ’ seemed about as thrilling as a visit to the dentist or doing my tax return. One knows it must be done, but procrastinates as long as possible.

Newsletter: When did you decide that it was time to familiarise yourself with the subject as relevant for your payments business?

Andrea Hasselbach: As I mentioned, my bank has been really adamant about getting my attention on this for a year. In May 2013, my bank advisor called me and explained that this European law on literally prohibits banks to process payment orders – including my direct debit collections – unless the payment orders are in line with the requirements. Now that was something I understood right away. Obviously, no business can afford a disruption of its cash flow. At the end of May, I therefore dusted off the information I had previously received from my bank and hunkered down on a Sunday to work through it. I also met with my bank advisor in June 2013 to discuss the specific steps I need to take to make my business -compliant.

Newsletter: What are the specific steps required to get Girlfriends -ready?

Andrea Hasselbach: Essentially, I need to complete the following actions: (1) inform my business partners of the IBAN and BIC of my business account; (2) change the account information of my clients and suppliers to IBAN and BIC; (3) get a creditor identifier1; (4) assign a mandate reference number for each mandate2 underlying a direct debit collection; (5) send a letter to those clients who are already paying by direct debit to inform them that these will be collected by going forward and inform them of my creditor identifier and the relevant mandate reference. My bank provided a template for this letter. I am also aware that clients paying by direct debit in the future have to sign a mandate. My bank offers a template for the mandate.

Newsletter: The Regulation states that payment service users have to make arrangements to adapt to the usage of ISO 20022 XML message standards in the customer-to-bank space in relation to files of payment transactions. Is this relevant with regard to your payment business?

Andrea Hasselbach: I read about ISO 20022 in the information I received from my bank, but then learnt that this is not relevant for my business with regard to migration. I initiate direct debit collections on behalf of my business via the online banking interface. I therefore only have to add relevant data including IBAN, BIC, the creditor identifier and the mandate reference in the online banking interface.

Newsletter: Will you be using both and Business to Business?

Andrea Hasselbach: I will only use .

Newsletter: Which specific actions with regard to migration have you already completed?

Andrea Hasselbach: I requested and received my creditor identifier from Deutsche Bundesbank [central bank of the Federal Republic of Germany]. I also downloaded a program which allows me to convert customer account data to IBAN and BIC3. I tentatively booked participation in a seminar also offered by my bank. This takes place in August 2013 however and I might still cancel it if I decide to go on vacation at that time. In that case, I would probably try to get a slot at such a seminar at a later stage, if available.

Newsletter: Are you getting adequate support to manage the Girlfriends migration project?

Andrea Hasselbach: I certainly received plenty of information from my bank early on. The bank also continues to be very responsive to any questions that I have and makes available tools helping me to manage this process.

This being said, I would like to share this advice with regard to communication targeting small businesses: Keep it simple. A fifty-page manual might be relevant for large enterprises, but it is not for me. The information I received made the job look much more complex than it is for a company like Girlfriends.

After I had worked through the 50-plus pages, I realised that I need to take five steps to make my small business -compliant. The individual actions relevant to me were buried at various places in the endless fine print. Why not put this information in a one-page flyer available in electronic format with any relevant website links included? Give this flyer a catchy title such as, for example, “Five Easy Steps to for Small Businesses”.

Time is money, especially for people running a small business with few or no additional staff. information should be adjusted to the scope of our operations and resources.

Newsletter: How much time do you think you will have to invest to complete all actions required to get your business -ready?

Andrea Hasselbach: Taking into account the time I already spent on the topic, I estimate it will take me about 15 to 20 hours to complete these actions.

Newsletter: In your view, is worth the investment?

Andrea Hasselbach: I think it is important to note the fact that I have to invest this time, which I could spend instead offering workshops, classes or personal training; i.e. earning money. I do not currently see an immediate return on this investment. Like many small businesses, I cater primarily to clients living in my town and the existing local payment infrastructure works for me. I am however now considering how I could generate business benefits with . I already have clients from other German cities who regularly visit Cologne on business. The opportunity to pay by is perhaps an incentive for female business travellers from other European countries who regularly visit Cologne to sign up for classes at Girlfriends.

Looking beyond my business and as a supporter of European integration, I fully see the logic of creating a harmonised European system for electronic euro payments considering that we have the common currency.

Newsletter: Ms Hasselbach, thank you very much!

Andrea Hasselbach is the owner of the dance and gymnastics school ‘Girlfriends’.


Related links:

Girlfriends – Tanz- und Gymnastikschule Website

European Central Bank SEPA-by-Country Hub: National SEPA Contact Links

EPC Video (March 2012): 'SEPA for Billers. The Time to Act is Now': to learn more about SEPA and the steps needed for compliance, watch this short video

The EPC Migration Tool Kit: Get Ready for SEPA by 1.2.2014. Act Now!

EPC Blog (November 2012): Is Your Local Corner Shop Ready for SEPA? Belgian Best Practice Shows How to Engage Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises in the Migration Process

European Central Bank: First SEPA Migration Report (March 2013)

Council of the European Union: Council Conclusions on SEPA (May 2013)

Regulation (EU) No 260/2012 establishing technical and business requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euro and amending Regulation (EC) No 924/2009


Related articles in this issue:

The Mazet Group: “Migration to SEPA Credit Transfer and SEPA Direct Debit Has Generated Tangible Benefits for Us”. This medium-sized business will conclude the SEPA migration exercise before the end of 2013

SEPA 2014: Avoid the Bottleneck, Get Ready Now. Facts and figures on SEPA Migration. The state-of-play in July 2013


Related articles in previous issues:

If You Have Not Migrated to SEPA Yet - Get Ready and Get Inspired: SEPA Pioneers on the Demand Side Share Best Practice. The SEPA deadline will not move from 1 February 2014 so act today to ensure your compliance ( Newsletter, Issue 18, April 2013)

SEPA Migration - Don't Count on a Plan B. European Central Bank publishes first SEPA Migration Report and warns against risks of late migration ( Newsletter, Issue 18, April 2013)

EPC Newsletter: Case Studies Highlighting Successful SEPA Migration Projects of Bank Customers 

The creditor identifier, in connection with the mandate reference, allows the payer and the payer’s bank to verify each payment and to process or reject the direct debit according to the payer’s instructions. Billers have to request this identifier according to local practice.

2 A mandate is signed by the payer to authorise the biller to collect a payment and to instruct the payer’s bank to pay those collections.

3 and other service providers make available different tools in different countries to facilitate conversion of account data to IBAN and BIC. Payment service users now working towards achieving compliance can obtain relevant information from their banking partner.

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