New data formats and the need for an EBICS update in Switzerland – what should be considered?

With the SIX EBICS V3.0 publication Swiss Market Practice Guidelines EBICS from June 2020, which contains recommendations for the implementation of the EBICS standard for the Swiss financial market, Switzerland is now also adapting the standard to the European harmonised protocol. The main drivers of the harmonisation were the members of the EBICS society, in particular the financial markets of Germany, France and Switzerland (the newest member is Austria).

By definition, two versions of EBICS are also supported in Switzerland, i.e. version 2.5 and version 3.0 in the future. At first glance, one could think that there is no urgent need for action on the part of customers and software manufacturers since the previous version is still being offered. If only in Switzerland the SIX document did not include the paragraph 2.2.1 EBICS Timeline with the following note: "To support the ISO 20022 schema migration to version 2019, the use of EBICS 3.0 is required."

As well-informed experts know, the ISO version 2019 is to be introduced for the customer-bank interface as of 2022. The current versions shall no longer be supported by 2024. This corresponds to the trend of global migration to this new version, e.g. in the projects SEPA, SWIFT MX or TARGET2 migration. This migration is of great importance, not least in view of the planned introduction of instant payments in Switzerland as of 2023.

The Swiss financial market has therefore decided to link the upgrade of the EBICS version with the upgrade of the ISO version. Against this background, customers and software manufacturers are faced with a few questions and challenges that should not be underestimated. The most important points are examined in the following paragraphs, and solutions are shown – wherever possible.

EBICS 3.0 will be available in Switzerland as of November 2021 at the latest

EBICS communication has now been fully established in Switzerland and is an indispensable part of the financial sector. So far, the EBICS version 2.5 is offered by the majority of financial institutions in Switzerland.

As already mentioned at the beginning, the Swiss Market Practice Guidelines EBICS (version 1.0 from 01/06/2020 by SIX, www.six-group.com) will officially introduce the new EBICS version 3.0 in Switzerland for corporate customer business with financial institutions as of November 2021.

Specifications by Switzerland for handling the new business transactions in EBICS

With the introduction of the new EBICS version 3.0, the previous version EBICS 2.5 will still be officially supported by financial institutions until the end of 2024. In addition, the acceptance of the new Swiss ISO 20020 formats in version 2019 requires EBICS 3.0. For corporate customers, this means that once they have updated their Swiss ISO formats, they can no longer easily use EBICS 2.5 for this purpose.

It is time to plan

These upcoming updates require that an adaptation of the software solutions be planned and implemented in good time. This is where financial institutions, corporate customers and software manufacturers must act.

Updating the ISO 20022 data formats to version 2019 is just one aspect. However, the changes to the EBICS protocol that are to be implemented with version 3.0 should not be underestimated. The most important requirements are:
  • The new business transaction format (BTF) replaces the previous order types and FileFormat parameters.
  • The transport of the public keys is now carried out uniformly with certificates.
  • The cryptographic procedures are improved.
  • The handling of bank keys is improved.
  • There are additional control parameters for electronic signatures.
  • A double submission check at file level is introduced.
So how to deal with these new requirements?

It is not only the financial institutions but also the software manufacturers of EBICS clients who have the task of extending their software solutions by EBICS 3.0, so that corporate customers can carry out updates and put them into production at an early stage.

All special features of EBICS 3.0 must be taken into account in the client, and it may be necessary to enable a mixed operation with different EBICS versions depending on the bank access and the EBICS users. In addition, the user should be offered migration options for the EBICS migration which avoid reinitialisation if possible (keyword increase of minimum key lengths).

The EBICS API – decoupling of business aspects and technology

From our own experience, we know that the migration to version 3.0 is not simply a matter of mapping order types to BTF combinations. There are many more challenges to overcome and aspects to reprogram respectively. This is especially the case if the financial institution, the software manufacturer and the customer want the migration to be as automated as possible. PPI has long been offering TRAVIC-EBICS-Kernel, an API solution for integration into proprietary EBICS clients. It is the central component for the handling of EBICS communication in almost every second EBICS client software in Europe.

With the latest version, the new specifics of EBICS 3.0 are, of course, already implemented. Correctly connected, the API transparently handles e-banking in all its variants and versions for the client. TRAVIC-EBICS-Kernel thus relieves the software manufacturers of e-banking and payments applications in the implementation of the standard protocol and its syntax as well as in security procedures. This solution fully reflects the EBICS specification and provides an easy-to-integrate interface that software manufacturers can connect to their software products as a convenient and quickly usable communication component.

Considering the cost/income ratio for the integration of TRAVIC-EBICS-Kernel, it is not surprising that this product is such a bestseller. Software manufacturers who do not use the TRAVIC-EBICS-Kernel can contact us at any time and request a test licence. The time for it has never been better than now, before the upcoming migration to EBICS 3.0.

Authors: Carsten Miehling and Michael Lembcke

Further information: Do you speak EBICS 3.0?

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