The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (Swift) has made another step into the communications ether between banks and corporates with its new electronic bank account management (Ebam) solution.
Part of Swift's growing set of solutions for corporates, Ebam allows users to manage their bank account opening, closing, maintenance and reporting automatically using ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) 20022 compliant message standards processed over the collective's existing platform. In addition, users can attach files with supplementary details to the standardised messages to allow for variations in local banking regulations.
"With Ebam we are moving [these communications] from paper and fax to electronic means," said Carlo Palmers, corporate market solution manager at Swift. He added that the collective may create a central engine to store data but that Ebam in its current form only facilitates the transit of communications directly between banks and corporates.
Asked whether this was a first step towards eMe, a digital safety deposit box for online identity selected by Swift's Innotribe group at last year's Sibos conference, Palmers said there was no link yet and that Ebam was one of the "value adds" the collective was introducing in the corporate-to-bank market segment.
One drawback of Ebam is that users must already be Swift members, including those of the collective's low-cost Alliance Lite platform. As membership is currently dominated by banks, this requirement could dampen usage initially but later may be an enticement to attract new corporate members to Swift's ranks.
"Ebam's standardised messaging helps us to improve our account management processes with our banks," said Carola Van Limbourg, cash management architect at energy giant Shell, in a statement. "It will save costs and effort, by eliminating large parts of the paper flow between ourselves and the banks. This is a tremendous benefit for companies with global treasury operations."
The service went live last week after receiving final approval for its message standards from the ISO. The project began in the fourth quarter of 2008, was piloted during the second and third quarters of 2009 and the message standards were finalised and submitted to the ISO at the end of 2009.
A total of nine organisations participated in the pilot, including three banks (BNP Paribas, BNY Mellon and Citi), three corporates (Shell, the others declined to be named) and three software vendors.
According to Palmers, several global banks plan to have corporate customers using Ebam by the time of the Sibos conference in October this year.
In addition to the new account management capability, the solution offers security to members on an individual rather than an institutional level. Palmers said this allows corporates to maintain electronically specific mandates for individuals, for example a global treasurer or chief financial officer could transfer from all accounts globally, while a local treasurer would only have access to local accounts. Swift plans to roll out a personal digital signature solution for its own main messaging services, or for any other bank services, for the first time by the third quarter.
Last year, Swift opened a new Asia-Pacific central control centre in Hong Kong to help shoulder the load of processing more than 14 million global financial communications the collective handles every day.