More security, lower costs: STEP2 Clearing with EBICS

Since the end of last year, EBA Clearing has offered EBICS alongside SWIFT as an access channel for STEP2. The blueprints of this system came from the German Bundesbank, which in 2008 had already integrated its SEPA clearer to SWIFT and EBICS. For what reasons does EBA Clearing offer EBICS access along with SWIFT? The motivation for this came from a few financial institutions and savings banks in Germany. Costs were a significant factor: With EBICS, there are no transaction costs associated with transmission.


In bilateral clearing between banks, known as "garage clearing" and used extensively in Germany, there are no costs incurred for clearing or transmission. Each bank involved in the transmission assumes the costs of transmission and clearing itself. Costs will obviously arise in terms of clearing when migrating to a centralised clearing system. To avoid further escalating costs, the expenses for transmission covered by every credit institution should be kept as low as possible. Since there are no transaction costs associated with transmission – apart from the actual running costs – the decision went in favour of EBICS.

A second aspect is even more important: Security! For interbank payment transactions the daily sums of money transferred are within the billions. Any interruptions of cash flow of a mere few hours can lead to faults which can have drastic economic ramifications. Therefore, the need for a backup transmission procedure for clearing in interbank payment transactions is rising. EBICS would also be an excellent solution to this, for example as a backup for SWIFT. EBICS and SWIFT are already used in parallel at a few banks for clearing. It also seems unlikely that regulators will be content with only one transmission procedure for much longer. In almost all areas of banking, security obligations have been tightened, such as through the PSD II. Further security measures on interbank payment transactions in the future are therefore unlikely to be out of the question.

Michael Lembcke
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