EBICS event in Luxembourg met with great interest

The EBICS standard is currently gaining ground in Europe. That’s why experts are also taking an interest in the financial centre, Luxembourg. Payment transaction experts from the field and IT departments of Luxembourg banks met there on 28th January 2015 to learn more about EBICS. They had been invited to the event, entitled “EBICS – A New Communication Protocol for Payment Activities”, by the Luxembourg banking association, ABBL.

The main subject was whether EBICS could be of interest to Luxembourg. The agenda was geared towards this question, with the following speakers taking part and these topics discussed:
  • Welcome, Serge Wagener, Banque et Caisse d’Epargne de l’Etat
  • EBICS at a Glance - Security, Use and Implementations, Hermann Fürstenau, PPI AG
  • EBICS - a chance to harmonise customer-to-bank communication standards for electronic banking in Europe, Axel Weiß, EBICS Chairman
  • EBICS Strategy of Deutsche Bank, Thomas Stosberg, Deutsche Bank
  • STEP2 and EBICS, Katja Heyder, EBA Clearing
EBICS was examined more closely as regards customer-bank and interbank communication, focusing particularly on secure data transfer with EBICS over the internet. The Luxembourg experts were also keen to learn more about the Distributed Electronic Signature and differences between the French and German EBICS versions.

The Luxembourg banking community was equally interested in the STEP2 access via EBICS to the European payment transfer hub because it allows costs cutting and back-up security. Each bank has to decide for itself how it can use STEP2 and EBICS. If, however, regulations should stipulate back-ups – which currently seems possible – EBICS is the best solution. For safety reasons, some banks are already operating two different infrastructures: SWIFT and EBICS. The complementary network topologies of EBICS and SWIFT are excellently suited for providing mutual back-up. But a main reason for using EBICS is also often costs.

A key motivation for the Luxembourg banks is, of course, that Germany and France have developed an EBICS standard together. And what is more, the EBICS standard is being further developed and promoted by a small, but efficient, EBICS community based in Brussels. Switzerland is currently taking its place in the EBICS community. Perhaps Luxembourg could then become the 4th member.
The idea of a “Global EBICS” is of strategic importance for some banks, and this was also borne out during discussions in Luxembourg. “Global EBICS” – or GBICS for short – goes hand-in-hand with a uniform ISO20022 format à la CGI (Common Global Implementation). CGI is the uniform format standard, and GBICS represents the transferral standard – worldwide! There was also great speculation as to whether there is a standard competing with EBICS: Is there a standard comparable to EBICS in the world, for example in Asia or America? The answer is a definite “no”. There seem to be, if any, just national standards and which are largely past their sell-by date. The outstanding technical and specialist capabilities of EBICS are undeniable. That’s why EBICS – or rather GBICS – really does have the potential to become a standard worldwide.

Michael Lembcke

EBICS and bank/company exchanges using SEPAmail™

On the initiative of large French banks (BPCE, CM-CIC, Société Générale, BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole), SEPAmail™ has been designed to facilitate electronic exchanges between economic institutions of non-accounting documents for payments such as invoices, mandates, advices etc., using flows. This secure messaging system between banks therefore allows traditional payment operations (transfers, debits, etc.) to be carried out with new payment services geared towards client use.

This includes:
  • Settlement by paperless invoice
  • Reliability of IBAN and combating fraud on IBAN
For detailed information on SEPAmail™, please visit the website at www.sepamail.eu.
Using the 4-corner model forming the basis of the SEPAmail™ standard, exchanges can be divided into two main types:
  • interbank exchanges performed solely in message mode (known as “missives” in SEPAmail™ terminology): web service or S/MIME
  • bank/company exchanges, for which the exchange of files is specially adapted.
It is this exchange channel of files that PPI France became interested in, at a very early stage, with SEPAmail™. From December 2012 it actively participated in experiments aiming to prove the adequacy of EBICS in sending SEPAmail™ bi-directionally.
The trials particularly consisted of:
  • Sending a missive and a batch of missives for transferring orders using the FUL order type,
  • Recovering a missive and a batch of missives of processing acknowledgements from the transfer of a file of type pain.002, via the PSR order type.
  • And up- and downloading a batch of missives of operation statements using the FDL order type.
With the usual configurations having been performed for the client installation and the bank server (TRAVIC software), the exchanges could be carried out and therefore demonstrated the possibility for both banks and clients to use their EBICS installations to proceed to SEPAmail™ exchanges.
These experiments enabled us to make some proposals, notably:
  • drafting a document simplifying the naming of files,
  • drafting an implementation guide for SEPAmail™ with EBICS, for use by banks, companies and service providers.
Certain providers and trusted operators have also recognised very quickly the interest in suggesting a SEPAmail™ offer supporting the EBICS channel. This is particularly the case with GFI which proposes the first complete solution complying with the standard for its bank or company clients.

“The strategy of our offer revolves around three fundamental principles:
  • simplicity: minimum impact on the information system of our clients
  • efficiency: optimised time to market
  • cost control: minimising clients’ initial investments to make it easier to put the ecosystem in place
From this, the benefits of using the EBICS channel can be seen clearly. This channel guarantees, in effect, the levels of security and traceability needed for SEPAmail™ exchanges, while also relying on the mechanisms known and mastered by our clients with regard to exchanges between the bank and the company”, explains Lionel Chemla, director of the SEPAmail™ offer of Gfi.

And just like EBICS – which is now being widely used, not only in Germany and France, but also in Portugal, Switzerland, Austria and, soon, other European countries – SEPAmail™, conforming to ISO20022, will no doubt in future be of interest to European economic institutions situated outside France...

Marc Dutech