Internationally in harmony with EBICS BTF

Sabine Wenzel, EBICS Secretary, EBICS SCRL

In 2010, the French CFONB and German DK banking authorities created a joint EBICS committee. One of its visions is to harmonise EBICS. The different procedures that already existed in these countries influenced the EBICS specification and are making it more difficult to implement EBICS. Germany and France use different approaches for the (short) identifiers for business transactions and for the formats to be used. This topic was given further momentum when Switzerland joined the EBICS SCRL. A harmonisation project was initiated with the goal of a standardised procedure for all of EBICS. This consolidation is known as EBICS BTF.

As a secure communication protocol, EBICS primarily ensures that all data is correctly authenticated, encrypted and authorised when it is being transferred.

Banks and corporate customers must be able to recognise which service is actually to be provided for the order. Accordingly, the EBICS server must check, for example
  • whether the customer is using the correct data format and, if applicable, the suitable version (variant) of the standard and/or the relevant special implementation directives
  • whether delivery rules have been observed and processing indicators have been set
    • the indicator for the number of electronic signatures that have been added to the order, and whether the customer can provide an additional required signature by means of VEU
    • the indicator for whether the order has been packed into a container
  • whether additional options are specified for the service, e.g. for the DK the reference to the SDC procedure, or for France the customary test mode
These checks require compact information about the business transaction involved and whether the transfer was delivered in the correct format. This “label” on the EBICS order still has a different appearance in the different countries.

In Germany, three-letter codes are used. France has defined only two standard order types (for uploads and downloads), with an added file format parameter. Neither procedure is sufficient for international usage, i.e. in Switzerland currently. This non-standard approach is obstructing the proliferation of EBICS.

Therefore, the EBICS Board of Directors (BoD) has assigned the EBICS Working Group (made up of EBICS experts from Germany, France and Switzerland) the task of preparing a standard, structured solution for identifying “Business Transactions & Formats” (BTF). EBICS BTF is to be a component of the next EBICS version.

At present, the BTF concept consists of three blocks (element groups):
  • Content – format/format standard used (if applicable, version used)
  • Processing – indicator for EU and VEU for container used
  • Service – information about the target system (if applicable, with 1..n options)
The advantage of this joint development: All participants have the same information about the values used for the XML elements and attributes. Thus, the “label” for standard business transactions (e.g. for the SEPA bank transfer) contains the same values in all countries. For country-specific versions, the BTF elements have different settings. This makes any differences transparent and easy to detect.
To achieve this standardised thinking, intensive specialist discussions were necessary – including discussions about the information that is really required for the identification and correct forwarding of the order. This information is to be complete and free of redundancies and contradictions. In particular, it was agreed to use external code lists where possible (corresponding codes for the data elements are to be agreed jointly and maintained in the EBICS SCRL).

In the EBICS Working Group, this solution is seen as very stable and has a high acceptance level. Ultimately, the EBICS communities must decide on the form and the time scale for the use of EBICS BTF in the coming years. To this end, national consultations are planned for the start of 2016 which will also involve the EBICS Working Group.

Sabine Wenzel


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