Equality for EBICS – use case instant bulk payments

Even if it might appear strange at first sight: in Germany, instant payments use cases for the file-based EBICS transfer protocol are also currently being discussed and specified for the customer-bank relation.
In this case, the use cases focus on the corporate customer business. Particularly larger corporate customers are required to be able to transmit bulk uploads to the financial institutions. Hence, for SEPA credit transfer uploads, for example, the German banking industry has agreed on the special form of a bulk instant payments upload (instant bulk payments) based on the XML format ISO pain.001. Equivalent business transactions and formats (payment status in the pain.002 format, for instance) are also being defined for the return direction of payment information in the payment chain – from the recipient or the financial institutions. The business transactions and format specifications thus defined are expected to become officially valid in Germany from November 2019 and can be offered by the financial institutions as an option.

What is special about instant bulk payments?

The key feature distinguishing instant bulk payments via EBICS from, for example, pure instant payments processes that are synchronously executed at the "point of sale" lies in the fact that the upload itself is not considered "instant" but is taken to be an upload for execution as instant payments (SCTINST).
The submitter's executing financial institution breaks the collection file down into single transactions and executes the payments as SCTINST provided the creditor can be reached in this way. The terms and conditions of SCTINST only become applicable from this point in time.
The return-direction data is then transmitted back to the submitter by the submitter's financial institution again using the EBICS channel. In this case for the default, this means that the data is provided by the financial institution for downloading in the EBICS bank server. In the corporate customer business, the financial institution exclusively assumes the familiar passive role in the relation between customer and financial institution defined for EBICS. Therefore an active notification of the sender via EBICS is currently not planned. 

Instant bulk payments due to urgency? 

Corporate customers want to use the new business transactions to enable payments to be collected and simultaneously submitted at short notice. In this way, the money can be used for longer periods until submission. The payments are then also immediately guaranteed and executed.
As with the recipient side, immediate notification is also desired for the return direction. As no provisions have been made in the EBICS role model for financial institutions to actively notify the customer, various interfaces (APIs) and procedures (such as e-mail push) are currently being discussed for this in Germany. 

Yet it is actually quite simple: why not make use of the bilateral EBICS that has already been established for interbank payments? Both parties, customer and financial institution, have equal roles as sender and recipient. All that is needed is to extend the EBICS customer applications by adding simplified EBICS server functions. Corporate customers uploading instant bulk payments could then also actively receive data from these processes. Applications of this kind are already available on the market. The new business transactions are therefore fully implementable using the existing standard and based on existing solutions. This could put an end to the time-consuming and costly discussions about additional interfaces, protocols and agreements.

Michael Lembcke
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