EBICS 3.0 in the starting blocks

On 19 May 2017 in the auditorium of the Fédération Bancaire Française (French Banking Federation), a workshop was held by CFONB to present version 3.0 of the EBICS protocol.

More than 120 people from various industries - banking, manufacturing, business etc. - took part in the event at which different speakers discussed the basic concept of this new version.

After the CEO and a number of representatives of EBICS SCRL (www.ebics.org) had provided an overview, a selection of important historical dates for EBICS was presented. They reminded us that the EBICS standard is well out of its infancy by now, as the implementation in Germany started 12 years ago and EBICS had its début in France more than 7 years ago. The Swiss financial institutions only started along this path in 2015. One presentation showed the current prevalence of EBICS, extending from the Iberian peninsula to the Baltic and from Ireland to Italy. However, aside from Germany, France, Switzerland and Portugal, the degree of usage in the countries of this region differs very significantly.

We were then presented with the reasons for the success of EBICS in the four countries (you will find numerous articles on the topic in this blog) and the barriers to its rapid expansion throughout Europe. The most significant of these are:
  • The differences in the identification of the payment flows between German, French and Swiss variants
  • The use of X.509 certificates in France and key pairs in Germany
  • The use of the distributed electronic signature in Germany and Switzerland, but not in France
This list was followed by a description of the profound changes that version 3.0 will bring, in particular with regard to the harmonisation through the integration of the BTF (Business Transaction Format) concept and the possible generalisation of the distributed electronic signature. You will find more detailed information on these topics on the EBICS SCRL website.

The second part of the workshop was a discussion on the topic: Why do we need a standardised EBICS version?

This presented stakeholders from the EBICS area with the opportunity to raise and discuss the following topics:
  • The advantages of EBICS and the limitations of version 2.x due to a lack of harmonisation
  • The expectations for the new version and the advantages provided by the harmonisation
  • The opportunities to expand geographically, even to other continents
    Africa in particular was mentioned here because a number of its banks already offer the EBICS service in several French-speaking countries.
  • The opportunities to use EBICS beyond the company-bank relationship
    Particular mention was made of the use of EBICS for STEP2 and RT1 (instant payments) with EBA Clearing.
  • Migration modalities
  • Aspects of the future development of the protocol under discussion that can be put on the agenda, such as the standardisation of the AC certificate and the option to use certificates that are not saved on physical media in order to simplify the industrialisation of EBICS signature solutions for mobile devices.
  • The current use of the distributed electronic signature in Germany and Switzerland, and the advantages that its use in France could bring
So this event comprised the official introduction of version 3.0. It will be available from November 2018, from which point all banks must offer the new version in addition to version 2.x, which is valid in the various communities.

There is no obligation for companies to also migrate at this time. There is no plan for them to perform a sudden migration from 2.x to 3.0. However, the new communities could start using this new version immediately.

Manufacturers and banks are faced with the prospect of a lot of work. In July 2017 an implementation guide will be provided by EBICS SCRL and CFONB to help with this process.
I give many presentations on EBICS in various European countries and beyond, and I believe that the harmonising will make this product significantly easier to promote. I am convinced that it is the key to success, and that the first letter of EBICS will come to signify “European”.

What if the developments currently being tested led to the next step being a Worldwide EBICS?...

Marc Dutech


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