Migration of payment transactions in Switzerland: genuine end-to-end tests with EBICS

Banks in Switzerland are working hard on projects to implement the harmonisation of Swiss payment transactions in accordance with ISO 20022. Software manufacturers and corporate customers demand opportunities to test the new payment formats. What they are looking for is an end-to-end testing scenario that optimally reflects real-life processing by the bank. Very few banks in Switzerland can offer this type of test. This is where EBICS can help.

SIX Interbank Clearing, which is responsible for publishing the Swiss implementation, offers what is known as a validation platform. It can be used for validating the messages (pain and camt) according to syntax and simple business rules. This is generally the first port of call for tests in the new ISO system. However, this test is not enough for manufacturers and customers if they then want to convert day-to-day payment processes with their bank.

Usable end-to-end tests include orders as transactions in electronic account statements (e.g. MT940 or camt.053) and notifications (e.g. MT942 or camt.052) with balance tracking and errors that replicate real life (generating corresponding status reports and cancellations). “The difficulty with tests is often notification, which takes place based on the data supplied”, says Christoph Schenker of PostFinance. “The testing platform http://isotest.postfinance.ch offers all the options for deposits and withdrawals that software manufacturers need in order to get their software ISO-ready for customers.”

Customers are particularly keen to simulate errors before implementation so that they can see how their internal processes cope with exceptional situations. Typically these are errors such as insufficient funds, incorrect beneficiary account or similar problems that will occur in day-to-day use.
To expand the end-to-end concept a little further, it would be ideal if corporate customers could send payment processes to a test infrastructure directly from their ERP software using EBICS and then download the associated data, also using EBICS. Only then is a genuine “proof of the pudding” possible. What must be simulated in particular are error messages and processing realistic file sizes – in other words the kind of creditor process with several hundred payments that takes place in real life, and not just a test payment. This provides the necessary reassurance before putting the system into use. Direct connection to a testing platform via EBICS makes it possible to automate testing cycles and transfer large files using the EBICS protocol. This is very difficult on a testing platform that only has a manual web upload interface.

Innovative Swiss banks see ISO 20022 and EBICS as an ideal combination to help their customers harmonise payment. Institutions that can also offer end-to-end testing provide a genuinely valuable service for their customers. “SAP has supported credit transfer with ISO 20022 for several years. Good testing platforms and direct contact persons at financial institutions support the ongoing implementation of ISO20022 messages in Switzerland”, says Rainer Hofmeister from the manufacturer SAP.

Carsten Miehling