B2B allies ready for push

SWIFT and Identrus find natural allies in each other, and are poised to roll out their secured internet payment and messaging services for cross border B2B payments.

Identrus was born three years ago, the offspring of eight banks' collaboration. That "child" is now poised to take its first steps. Teaming up with SWIFT, the pair is poised to roll out a brand new business to business (B2B) financial communication services based on the internet. According to Ashley Evans, director of participant relations at Identrus, a live test of the certification scheme took place during the last 60 days with Bank of America as the first certification authority to go into production of the digital certificates, which will be put onto smart cards.

The symbiotic relationship between Identrus and SWIFT was announced in September of this year to secure a slice of the B2B action, which Gartner Group predicts will reach $2.7 trillion by 2004. The relationship effectively binds trust providers with payment providers on a single platform for B2B merchants. SWIFT's new TrustAct is a messaging platform that will allow financial institutions to validate corporate identities in B2B transactions online. The TrustAct platform will support Identrus digital certificates which will be issued and verified by 40 banks around the world, so far to 250 vendors.

"There is a need for a ubiquitous model that will allow corporates to get connected," says Evans. He cites that 18% of corporate customers cannot afford electronic data interchange (EDI), which enables the electronic exchange of business documents in a standard, pre-defined format between trading partners.

New services targeted

Furthermore, "TrustAct opens up the scope for new services through a new channel," says Wim Raymaekers, E-Trust product manager at SWIFT. Not only will banks be using SWIFT for payments messaging, the company also hopes to capture the market for messaging services which are required before a payment can be made. Business messages such as purchase orders, purchase order confirmation, invoices and invoice approval need to be conveyed and done so with security and trust. The combination of digital certificates and SWIFT's internet messaging platform aims to fulfill that need.

A future product that the pair hopes to launch is electronic letters of credit. One of the biggest issues faced is the setting of messaging standards. Once payment initiation is standardized through the new service, Evans of Identrus says that the standards containing the necessary information can then be attached to the identity credentials on the certificate and finally mapped to the purchase order to create an electronic letter of credit.

The alliance is not an exclusive one; TrustAct aims to be an open infrastructure, though according to Raymaekers, SWIFT will be working exclusively with Identrus for the next 12 months.

Identrus expects that at least 10% of SWIFT's 7,000 member banks will be using their digital certificates as operated by TrustAct.

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