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One of our recent blog posts looked at ‘4 things you should consider if you want to process your own Direct Debit collections ’ and we know many organisations become confused about the decision over whether to use a bureau or not. Whether you are already collecting payments by Direct Debit and looking to gain more control over your Direct Debit collections, or looking at Direct Debit as a payment method for the first time, you may wish to consider becoming a Direct Debit originator or, as it is often referred to, a ‘direct submitter’.

What is a Direct Debit originator?

A Direct Debit originator is a company that has been authorised by a bank to submit payments directly to Bacs and receive Direct Debit payments. In order to become a Direct Debit originator and collect these payments, you must hold a Service User Number or SUN. We’ve previously spoken about the advantages of having your own SUN, and these apply whether you are a direct submitter or use a bureau service.

How do I become a Direct Debit originator?

Firstly, you need to obtain a SUN and this means you will need to contact your bank directly. Each bank has its own unique set of risk assessments and an end to end application process. The first point of contact is your named account manager who will often help you to speak with specialist Bacs teams who can advise you of the steps you will need to take with them in particular. They will be able to confirm whether you are currently eligible to obtain a SUN or what criteria you need to meet in future to be able to do so.

As every bank is unique there is no fixed question set or requirement but they will likely check/ask a combination of the following:

  • Your business’ UK sterling bank account
  • Your business’ financial standing
  • Quality of your administrative control
  • Contractual capacity
  • An indemnity in favour of all banks participating in the Direct Debit scheme.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The minimum turnover required is typically upward of £1 million, but this can vary substantially between banks
  • The values and services of transactions are taken into account when considering your organisations eligibility
  • Some industries tend to find it more difficult to gain sponsorship where risk is deemed to be higher such us rental of property or repayment of loans
  • Minimum transaction volumes of around 400 Direct Debits are generally enforced.

In order to process your own Direct Debit collections, there are a number of other things besides obtaining a SUN that you would need to consider to ensure you are able to offer a reliable and secure service to your customers:

  • Software – You will need to build software for submitting payments and downloading reports, which must be an approved software provider by Bacs (list of approved providers can be found here) which carries its own set of requirements.
  • Bacstel-IP – Once you have set this software up, you will be able to submit payments using Bacstel-IP. Bacstel-IP is an online submission channel which you would use to submit your payment files straight to Bacs.
  • Resource – You will need a dedicated team, making sure that your collections are taken on time and accurately. Also, this team would handle any discrepancies such as non-payments and cancellations.
  • Training – As you can see, there’s much more to Direct Debit than just a mandate and a collection, so for all the steps in between, this would require Bacs accredited training. This would give your team the knowledge they would need to start collecting payments, dealing with cancellations, indemnity claims and a whole host of other things you are required to handle head on if you become a Direct Debit originator.

What happens if I can’t get a Service User Number?

Not every business or organisation will be eligible to obtain its own SUN. Not to fear, as you can still process your Direct Debit collections through a Facilities Managed (FM) solution provided by a Bacs approved third party such as Access PaySuite. The third party will manage the whole process on your behalf, including secure processing and Bacs reports.

When comparing bureaus which offer a Facilities Managed service, consider whether they ring-fence your funds by using one account or SUN in your name. There is increased risk if a bureau combines their customers’ funds into one SUN should they experience any financial difficulties, not to mention the fact that your payers wouldn’t see your name on their bank statements which can lead to increased cancellations and queries. Another consideration, especially for a new ambitious start-up is whether the organisation you choose to partner with can grow with you. Many bureaus offer one service but few offer a service to support both direct and indirect submitters without significant increases in cost or reductions in service quality.

There are plenty of other reasons why you should consider us if you are unable to obtain a SUN and they can all be found here.

Obtaining a SUN isn’t the only consideration

If you are able to obtain a SUN, there is more to consider than just the initial financial and time investment before proceeding to become a Direct Debit originator. Making the ongoing administration as efficient as possible should be a key consideration. Offering your customers a choice of sign-up options of paper and paperless, integrating your systems to have a single point of truth for customer information and coordinating the necessary Direct Debit communications with your customers may all be factors which lead you to favouring a bureau service rather than being an originator.

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