by Emmanuelle Fischer, Head of Cash Management Marketing & Product, Societe Generale
Corporate-to-bank connectivity has experienced substantial change in recent years, not least with the introduction of SWIFT Corporate Access, the development of highly sophisticated web-based banking solutions, and changes in countries such as France with the retirement of ETEBAC 5. In many respects, these changes have either resulted in, or been a catalyst for more convenient, secure and standardised connectivity solutions that can be integrated with corporates’ internal systems more easily than legacy communication tools. Until 2010, however, one vital element that was absent from these innovations was a single personal digital signatory tool that would enable corporate users to ‘sign’ transactions with multiple banks.
Demand for personal digital signatures
Corporations in France had been accustomed to adding personal digital signatures to payment files as it was a feature of ETEBAC 5. Corporate users digitally signed payment files before transmission, and the identity of the signatory was then validated by the bank on receipt of the file. Since ETEBAC 5 has been retired, it has been replaced by EBICS TS or, particularly amongst larger and/or multi-banked corporates, by SWIFT for Corporates. Inevitably, neither corporates nor their banks have been willing to compromise their security procedures by omitting digital signatures from their payment processes. Consequently, it was essential that a solution was found to replace the functionality previously provided by ETEBAC 5. Furthermore, as corporates in other countries enhanced their bank communication, digital signatures became a more compelling requirement globally.
The ownership dilemma
Despite the strong business case for a digital signature solution, all market participants recognised that proprietary developments undertaken by individual banks would be contrary to the widely held objective to promote standardisation in corporate-to-bank communications. The solution to this dilemma emerged in 2010 with the launch of 3SKey by SWIFT. 3SKey is a personal digital identity solution developed by SWIFT in co-operation with key players across the banking and corporate community. Although developed by SWIFT, 3SKey signatory devices can be used to digitally sign transactions both through the SWIFT network and through proprietary networks or web-based solutions, for which it offers a valuable, robust authentication mechanism. Corporate users can therefore access their banking platforms and sign financial files sent to different banks with a single device, as opposed to requiring separate security tokens and diverse signature processes.