EBICS – Opportunities to internationalise

Thomas Stosberg, GTB Product Management, Deutsche Bank AG

After Germany and France, Switzerland is the third country to join the EBICS community, taking the internationalisation of EBICS a step further. Has EBICS got the potential to become an international standard and is this in the interest of customers and banks?

The various committees of a country that deal with the processing of (national) payments are keen to provide a stable and standardised payments solution for their customers and banks. Adapting a new standard always comes from a strong motivation to do so – stemming mainly from problems with technical security and/or costs to the company from the previous solution. Or put another way – countries with a workable solution for all the market players are highly unlikely to think about adapting a new standard. But for any countries considering a new standard, there could be merit in using EBICS.

The customer’s point of view

The customers that EBICS is aiming at – companies of all sizes, ranging from the very small to international concerns – are looking for a payments solution that meets two key requirements. On the one hand, it must be low in cost. And on the other, it must connect their own infrastructure to all the banks in a way that is simple, secure, accountable, automated and standardised (with regard to bank communication and the payment formats used). The latter allows all the banking partners to be integrated the same way. This enables payments to be spread flexibly over various banks and technical problems to be addressed using emergency planning.

EBICS can meet all these requirements set out by the customer. As far as implementation in Germany is concerned, the entire process can be automated with digital signatures without using certificates and a “corporate seal” authorisation.

And now that the CGI-MP-XML format is offered on the German market to make payments globally, this has also laid the foundations for establishing EBICS as an alternative in bank communication to a SWIFT or host-to-host connection for customers.

The bank’s point of view

In future, banks will no longer survive on the market with their own technical solutions. A technical solution (bank communication and payment format) specific to each bank is not considered a USP or sales argument by customers. And using and maintaining one provides no economic gain to the bank either.

Competition between banks will therefore be based solely on the services that they offer and the prices they charge. Customers assume that the technical solution used for payments is standardised – just like electricity coming from different plug sockets.

Introducing EBICS in France has shown that using a common standard tends to have little effect on one’s own customer base or profits. This is due to the fact that the customer interfaces in both countries are different and that customers don’t generally select their banking relationships according to the access channels provided.

In terms of customer interfaces, EBICS allows banks to offer this kind of standardised service for multiple countries. Furthermore, EBICS can also be used as clearing access for SEPA payments.

EBICS an opportunity to internationalise

To customers, EBICS represents an attractive form of bank communication. For banks, EBICS is the means to providing standardised access for many countries on the basis of one infrastructure. This is also particularly the case if a bank mainly operates in just one country because it can then look after its customers with subsidiaries in the SEPA area at no undue expense. With EBICS already adapted in the two largest European countries and Switzerland, there are already considerable numbers of EBICS users outside the core markets. These will continue to rise and also help EBICS become officially established in other countries and with more banks. EBICS spreading further would benefit all market players and, for countries needing to take action, is by far the best option for transforming the processing of payments.

Thomas Stosberg