With Christmas rapidly approaching, staff planning annual leave and lots of festive distractions ahead, now is a good time to start planning your Bacs submissions over the holiday season. Here we cover top tips to ensure successful, smooth and error-free Bacs processing.
Plan when to submit your files to Bacs
The extra bank holidays over Christmas and New Year mean that you may need to send your collection or payment files earlier than usual. If, for example, you usually collect on the 27th of the month, in December you would need to submit your file to Bacs no later than December 21st. Download the Bacs Processing Calendar for 2023 and 2024 to help you plan.
Add the Correct Collection date
Ensure the correct collection date is contained within your submission / Bacs file. This is especially important if you submit files early. Over the Christmas break when staff are away on holiday, some organisations will send their files to Bacs in advance of their usual collection date. This is fine – you can send files up to 30 calendar days in advance of processing day. It can, on occasion, be convenient to send them early so you know the job is done. It is ESSENTIAL though if you do send files early to ensure that the correct processing date is included. Doing so will ensure files that are not collected / paid early.
This is one of the big risks at Christmas – you only have to conduct an internet search for “Direct Debits collected early” to realise that the most likely time for early collections to occur is over the Christmas break. If there is no future processing date within a file / submission, Bacs transactions will be processed according to the Bacs 3 day cycle.
Ensure Nominated Contacts are available and up-to-date
Check that you have at least one nominated Bacs security contact to cover processing over Christmas. If the bank reaches out with a query about your Direct Debits or Direct Credits, they will need to liaise with a nominated contact. Likewise, if you need to withdraw a file, (for example one that has been submitted in error), the bank will need instruction from a nominated contact.
Now might be a good time to check who your nominated contacts are. Staff leave and/or change roles. When they do, it’s important to update the bank and Bacs with changes and advise new contact details as part of your off-boarding. If you haven’t done previously, now is the time to check and update these.
Review your Smartcard Policy
Keep smart cards on your person – don’t leave them in the office. Even organisations that use an HSM to submit files to Bacs will potentially have smartcards as a contingency submission option. If you do have staff that hold smartcards, they should treat the smartcards as they would a credit card – i.e. they should keep it secure and ensure that it is accessible if needed. Many smartcard holders will keep them in their purse/wallet. That way, if they are needed over the break, they can be accessed easily without a drive into the office.
Check Important Contact Details
Have important contact details to hand – for your software supplier, your bureau, for Bacs and for your sponsoring bank. That way, if there are queries, people know who to contact. It will be less stressful and quicker to resolve any issues.
Review your Contingency Approach
Bacs recommend every organisation has contingency in place to be able to process files if an error occurs. How up to date is your Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plan? Does it contain up-to-date contact details for staff and suppliers? Do you have an agreed timeline for escalation of issues? If not, consider developing these.
Continue your usual checks
Having 2-stage approval for your Bacs files, or a second check on submissions (i.e. by logging into Payment Services website or accessing Bacs Input reports) can help identify any erroneous submissions or errors in amount and/or dates. Even when you have less staff available over the holiday period, it is important to maintain your usual checks.
The Importance of Planning your Bacs Submissions
Whilst there is never a good time for Direct Debit collections to go wrong, there is a ‘worst possible time’. That’s the time just before a big holiday; when staff are away on annual leave and unable to operate the phones / respond to customer queries. It’s when your customers least want errors to occur – especially if they involve too much money being taken from their accounts or money taken early. If they cant reach you to find out what has happened and when their money will be returned it can lead to other issues. Collecting an organisations income is a big responsibility. Errors in the process can:
- affect cashflow
- increase staff workload (It often takes longer to resolve issues than it does to ensure they don’t arise)
- negatively affect company image
- knock staff confidence.
Effective planning of your Bacs Submissions over the Christmas break should ensure that no issues arise for staff to deal with. It also means that if anything does occur, staff will be better informed about what actions to take. In turn, this means less stress and worry all round.
Looking ahead to 2024, why not start the year the right way and ensure your team have the skills they need to process Bacs transactions successfully. Contact us to learn more about our Bacs Accredited training options and support.
Contact us. We are happy to help!