Common API

The technical interfaces are becoming increasingly important in the discussion about digitization in the financial sector. These Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are used for instance to exchange information between mobile apps and the respective banks. Unification would solely bring advantages. This is what Swiss Fintech Innovations has recognized therefore set up the Common API working group to develop API standardization recommendations for banks and insurers.

Via Swiss Fintech Innovations, leading companies from the Swiss financial center bundle their forces and ensure a direct exchange between finance, financial technology (Fintech), science, service providers as well as authorities and politics. To this end, representatives of major Swiss banks and insurance companies have joined forces to lay the foundations for the harmonization and standardization of APIs in the financial industry.

The unification of these interfaces will lead to a multitude of win-win situations: Bank customers benefits from faster introduction of new, innovative services. Transactions are greatly simplified both on an intra-corporate level as well as bank-to-bank. For providers of third-party software, the costs also decrease.

The Common API Specifications for Banking are developed iteratively, starting with the business domain Payments. The Common API Specifications for Insurance, in turn, will be addressed at a later date. This is mainly due to the fact that no standards comparable to those of the banking sector exist for the insurance sector yet. The working hypothesis is that the Common API Specification for Banking will provide the most suitable basis for the development of the Common API Specification for Insurance.

Work Results

All standardization recommendations of the Common API working group can be found in SFTI’s respective GitHub repositories. In addition, each repo contains a wiki in which the API is described in detail (see Specifications (GitHub) ) Further documentation:

• SFTI’s White Paper on Multibanking: Multibanking-WhitePaper.pdf
• SFTI’s Key Issues Paper on Multibanking: Key_Issues_on_Multibanking.pdf
• SFTI’s Whitepaper on API Security: WhitePaperonAPISecurity.pdf
• SFTI’s Whitepaper on Cyber Security: SFTI-WhitePaper-on-CyberSecurity.pdf

For further information on the Common API specifications, please contact us at office@swissfintechinnovations.ch

Working Group Participants*

+ Banks / BCV, BEKB, Credit Suisse, HBL, Lombard Odier, Postfinance, Raiffeisen, SGKB, UBS, Valiant, ZKB
+ Insurances / AXA, Swisslife, Zurich
+ Consulting / Acrea, NTT Data
+ Infrastructure / SIX, Swisscom
+ Card Issuer / Cornèr Card, Mastercard, Raiffeisen, Swiss Bankers, Swisscard AECS, UBS Card Center, Viseca
+ Software / Abacus, Adnovum, adorsys, Aity, Avaloq, Crealogix, Finnova, fort-it, Google, Strategem, Synpulse, Temenos
+ TPP/Fintech / Alphasys, Assetmax, Bexio, Contovista, Counteo, Etops, HR Campus, Klara, Limmobi, Rhyno, SwissSalary

The work of the Common API working group at SFTI is competently accompanied and supported by:

*SFTI not only welcomes interested banks and insurers, but also companies related to the financial centre, such as software and consulting firms, and institutions from the university sector with a banking focus. A complete overview of SFTI members is published on the association’s website.

Swiss API initiatives

In the Swiss banking environment, various initiatives have recently been formed on the API issue. This article is intended to provide a basic overview of the orientation and objectives of these initiatives. Although extensively researched, this article does not claim to be exhaustive. The network diagrams in this article reflect the author’s classification.

In the following, these dimensions are considered:

• Standardization: Freely accessible API specification
• Implementation: Commercial API implementation
• Benefits for banks: The primary target group of the initiative are banks (more possible)
• TPP Support: The primary target group of the initiative are third party providers (others possible)
• Expansion of business areas: The initiator of the initiative thus combines an expansion of her field of activity

Common API (SFTI)

The primary objective of the SFTI’s Common API Working Group is to create a common standard for the API specification.

The implementation of the specification is not the task of the working group. The implementation should be carried out primarily on the core banking systems by their manufacturers.

Primarily, banks should be the beneficiaries, but there is also a high focus on the benefits for Fintechs/TPPs.

SFTI is not pursuing commercial interests with this initiative.

b.Link (SIX)

The SIX b.Link initiative (former Corporate API) has as its primary goal the implementation of API-based services for commercial bank customers for account access and payment initiation (XS2A, Payment Initiation). In the future, banking APIs for other business areas will be implemented.

The actual standardization of the underlying API specification is not the main focus here, but its unification for the users of the implementation is.

Beneficiaries should be banks and Fintechs/TPPs alike.

With this project, SIX wants to offer Swiss banks commercially exploitable, API-based services and thus expand their business areas.

Open Banking Hub (Swisscom)

The primary goal of the Open Banking Hub is to implement API-based services for Swisscom‘s SaaS customers. The basis for this is their existing interconnectivity infrastructure.

The actual standardisation of the underlying API specification is not at the forefront here, but is considered necessary from the point of view of achieving cost benefits alone. Standardization will be carried out successively, if an existing market standard cannot be used.

Beneficiaries should be banks and Fintechs/TPPs alike.

With this solution, Swisscom intends to offer its SaaS customers API-based services and act as an attractive SaaS provider for new banks

openbankingproject (BEI)

The OpenBankingProject.ch initiative is intended to create a knowledge platform on Open Banking in Switzerland and will provide a simple sandbox for checking API reference implementations.

The creation of API standards is not the primary focus, and the implementation of productively usable, API-based services is the responsibility of banks and TPPs.

The target group of the project are banks, TPPs and manufacturers of backend systems.

With this project, the founding and project partners want to promote Open Banking in Switzerland. To ensure this, they are assigning the chairmanship to BEI (Business Engineering Institute St. Gallen AG)

International Standardization Initiatives

The following lists provide an overview of current and previous standardization initiatives in the banking environment.

+ Data/interface standards

ISO 20022

ISO 20022 is an ISO standard for the modelling and electronic data exchange between financial institutions. For this purpose, an extensive data repository has been set up with ready-made business components from which the messages can be compiled. Quellen: Wikipedia, official website, technical information/resources

Open Banking UK (OBUK)

This initiative is driven by the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) and supported by the nine largest banks in the country (Barclays plc, Lloyds Banking Group plc, Santander, Danske, HSBC, RBS, Bank of Ireland, Nationwide and AIBG). It has a strong commitment to promoting innovation and competition in financial services in the UK. It has contributed to this by providing application programming interfaces (APIs), data structures and security mechanisms that enable customers to exchange financial information easily and securely
Quellen: Wikipedia, official website, technical information/resources

nextGenPSD2 by The Berlin Group

nextGenPSD2 is an API standard published and maintained by The Berlin Group (TBG). This EU-based interest group aims to define open and common, API schemes and process-independent standards in the interbank area between creditor banks (acquirers) and debtor banks (issuers) and to complement the work of organisations such as the European Payments Council (EPC) independently. The nextGenPSD2 specification is based on the Payment Services Directive 2, an EU directive regulating payment services and payment service providers throughout the EU/EEA area.
Quellen: Wikipedia, official website, technical information/resources, yaml-Datei

Stet PSD2

This initiative was launched by the main French clearing house, STET, and is supported by contributions from the country’s largest banks: BNP Paribas, Groupe BPCE, Groupe Crédit Agricole, Banque Fédérative du Crédit Mutuel, CIC, Banque Postale, Société Générale, Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, Crédit Mutuel, ARKEA, HSBC France and OCBF These institutions will not be forced to implement the solution. It is working towards convergence with the Berlin initiative NextGenPSD2 of the Berlin Group (see above) to create a pan-European standard.
Quellen: Wikipedia, official website, technical information/resources

FIX

The Financial Information eXchange Protocol (FIX) is an electronic communication protocol initiated for the international real-time exchange of information related to securities transactions and markets.
Quellen: Wikipedia, official website, technical information/resources

+ Communication standards

EBICS

The Electronic Banking Internet Communication Standard (EBICS) is a transmission protocol for sending payment information between banks over the Internet. It is mandatory for use at German banks and has also been adopted by France and Switzerland.
Quellen: Wikipedia, official website, technical information/resources

FinTS

Financial Transaction Services (finTS) is a further development of the HBCI standard.
Quellen: Wikipedia, official website, technical information/resources

HBCI

Home Banking Computer Interface (HBCI) is an open standard developed in Germany by various banks for electronic banking and customer self-service. In the meantime it has been replaced by FinTS.
Quellen: siehe FinTS

Information on standardization initiatives in the insurance sector will follow in due course.

Media Coverage

Since its foundation, the SFTI Common API Working Group has been the subject of continuous reporting:

08.12.2023 | Fintech News Switzerland
Switzerland Sees Slow Uptake of Open Banking

29.11.2023 | LinkedIn
OpenPK goes SFTI CommonAPI

09.11.2023 | ndgit
Multibanking API

18.08.2023 | Innopay
Quo Vadis Open Banking in DACH?

09.05.2023 | LinkedIn
Multibanking für Privatkunden: diese drei strategischen Zielbilder braucht jetzt jede Schweizer Bank

23.05.2022 | HSLU
Open Banking – von Banken unterschätzt

24.02.2022 | finance.swiss
The opportunities of open wealth for the Swiss financial centre

04.03.2021 | investrends.ch
OpenFintechs und Banken rücken näher zusammen

04.03.2021 | finews.ch
Open Banking: Lobbyisten reichen sich die Hand

04.03.2021 | e-foresight
Open Banking – Initiativen in der Schweiz werden konkreter

04.03.2021 | Cash
Banken- und Fintech-Branchenverbände wollen «Open Finance»-Grundlagen gestalten Fintechs und Banken rücken näher zusammen

04.03.2021 | finews
Open Banking: Lobbyisten reichen sich die Hand

04.03.2021 | investrends
Fintechs und Banken rücken näher zusammen

04.03.2021 | moneycab
Banken- und Fintech-Branchenverbände wollen „Open Finance“-Grundlagen gestalten

04.03.2021 | Swiss Bankers Association
Open finance: industry associations draw up fundamentals for an open financial centre

18.02.2021 | inside-it
Open-Banking-Initiative Openwealth gründet einen Verein

12.10.2020 | IFZ Retail Banking Blog
Open Banking im Wealth Management – eine kritische Würdigung der OpenWealth API Initiative

8.10.2020 | Netzwoche
Initiative kündigt Open Banking für Wealth Management an

7.10.2020 | Finextra
OpenWealth Community and Swiss Fintech Innovations Association develop standard for interfaces

30.9.2020 | TheMagazine
OpenWealth und SFTI Common API entwickeln Schweizer API Standard für Wealth Management

29.9.2020 | Moneycab
Open Banking nun auch für Vermögensverwaltung und Wertschriften: SFTI und OpenWealthInitiative schaffen neuen Standard

22.9.2020 | NTT Data Newsroom
Open Banking: Eine neue Rolle für die Schweizer Finanzindustrie

2.9.2020 | elfnullelf (D)
Common API Initiative erarbeitet einheitliche API für den Finanzdienstleistungssektor

31.8.2020 | IT Finanzmagazin (D)
Schweizer Initiativen konsolidieren Open-Banking-Schnittstellen

26.8.2020 | SIX
More Clarity in Swiss Open Banking: Leading Initiatives Join Forces

16.7.2020 | SwissBanking
Open Banking – ein Thema nimmt Fahrt auf …

14.7.2020 | Open Business Hub (Swisscom)
APIs are the new digital language

9.7.2020 | investrends.ch
Open Banking in der Schweiz: Zwischen Hype und Realität

30.4.2020 | finews.ch
Open Banking: Kundenschnittstelle rückt in den Fokus

4.2.2020 | MoneyToday
SFTI lanciert eine Schweizer API-Informationsplattform

3.2.2020 | en24.news
SFTI launches a Swiss API information platform

28.1.2020 | Moneycab
SFTI stellt Schweizer API-Informationsplattform vor

28.1.2020 | Fintechnews
Branchenverband lanciert Schweizer Informationsplattform für API’s

28.1.2020 | 0x Fintech (VR China)
Industry Association Launches Swiss Information Platform For APIs

3.12.2019 | SBVg
Offenes Finanzökosystem braucht Vertrauen

27.09.2019 | ccecosystems.news
Open Banking: Das Thema legt auch in der Schweiz an Tempo zu

25.07.2019 | SwissFintechFair
SFTI will present the work from their Common API working group at Swiss Fintech Fair

01.07.2019 | NDGIT
Open Banking APIs weltweit

03.06.2019 | Github
Swiss Domestic Payments Drafts v0.1 definieren

18.03.2019 | Deloitte
Open banking in Switzerland: APIs as a game-changer

20.02.2019 | HID Global
Opportunities and Challenges of Open Banking Around the World

15.02.2019 | Deloitte
Ecosystems 2021 – was bringt die Zukunft?

08.01.2019 | PPI Schweiz
EBICS and the API discussions – a status update from Switzerland

12.10.2018 | ICTjournal
Les banques suisses auront-elles des API standardisées? Oui, mais…

08.10.2018 | MoneyToday
Common API macht die Schweiz zu “DEM” Fintech Standort

08.10.2018 | MoneyToday
Open Banking: Standardisierte Schnittstellen von Swiss FinTech Innovations

25.09.2018 | PPI Schweiz
Die Schweizer Finanzindustrie wird API

04.03.2018 | MoneyToday
Swiss Fintech Innovations: Finanzplatz standardisiert Schnittstellen

15.02.2017 | Moneycab
Interview with Lamine Brahimi, Board Member Swiss Fintech Innovation, Head Digitization Lombard Odier

01.01.2016 | MoneyToday
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