EBICS – on the way to the European market standard

Axel Weiß, Chairman of Board of Directors EBICS

Since 1995, corporate customers in Germany have handled payment transactions securely with every bank via a standard product and an electronic signature.
Already in 2003, the enhancement of the DFÜ Agreement was initiated by an internet-based version This variant of the DFÜ procedure was called EBICS “Electronic Banking Internet Communication Standard”. With this extension, the German banking industry met the requirement of customers and institutes for internet-based solutions in electronic banking.

The objective of this extension was to add internet protocol based transfer options to the uniform, multi-bank-capable bank standard “DFÜ with customers”, and thus extend the related range of application options. The current security requirements for corresponding securing mechanisms such as HTTPS are used here, with an additional strong authentication for the communication security.
EBICS is characterised by the following features:
  • one standard for all banks and customers, i.e. corporate customers can use one software to access any bank that offers EBICS
  • open standard, i.e. corporate customers can use standard products or individual software
  • modern technology and license-free international standards such as XML, HTTPS, TLS, ZIP
  • the highest security standards, e.g. encryption on the transport level and end-to-end
  • one means of transport for all business processes such as direct debits, bank transfers, bank statements, cash management, stock orders and much more
  • inclusion of service providers via multi-step signature concept
  • approval of orders regardless of location
  • the price and performance determine the competition, not the technology and the effort involved in changing the bank
Besides customer-bank communication, EBICS is used in Germany and increasingly in other EU countries for the secure, very cost-effective exchange of payment transactions between banks. Not least, the provision of a delivery channel for EBICS transactions at EBA Clearing led to a significant increase in the number of inter-bank transactions via EBICS, with around five per cent of all SEPA transactions processed by EBA Clearing now being processed via EBICS communication. As well as being used in the bilateral clearing of payments, EBICS is increasingly also being used as a backup solution to the existing communication channels, such as those provided by SWIFT.

In 2003, the English term “EBICS” was chosen to underline the desire to not only use this communication standard on a national level, but also to provide an alternative to existing approaches on European level for banks and their customers.

In Germany, banks were already obliged to support EBICS from 1 January 2008 onwards. The old FTAM standard has now completely replaced by EBICS.

In 2008, a cooperation agreement about EBICS was made between Germany and France. The French banking industry conducting a comprehensive make-or-buy analysis had recognised in advance that EBICS most comprehensively covers the requirements of French banks and their customers, and thus had the greatest potential to replace the ETEBAC communication standard used up to this point. It quickly became obvious to the participating banks and associations that the legally secure use of EBICS by all users would be by establishing a joint EBICS company. The purpose of the EBICS company lies primarily in the further development and maintenance of the EBICS standard and keeping the trademark.

After intensive negotiations between the German and French banking industries, the EBICS company was founded in June 2010. In setting up the EBICS SCRL based on Belgian law, close attention was paid to making the community non-profit-oriented and very lean, with minimal running costs. Additionally, it was ensured that the company is open to other banks interested in EBICS.
Therefore, the establishment of the company created the basis for the Europe-wide usage of the EBICS and its further development into a European market standard. In April this year, the declaration of membership of the SIX Interbank Clearing as the representative of the Swiss banking industry marked a further important step toward the Europeanisation of EBICS.

The declared aim is now to convince banking industries in other EU countries of the benefits of using, and in particular co-designing, EBICS – the doors are wide open to new participants in the EBICS community.

Axel Weiß


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