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SEPA - who's really who?

I was at a payments industry conference in Frankfurt this week, presenting a view of a major corporate treasury department about the nature of the bank-to-corporate relationship.

If you’re trying to sell solutions to your customers, you have to understand their business and their problems.  One of the questions is – do banks really care what their customers’ problems are?  One of their problems is “identity”.  Each corporate has a different way of identifying itself to each bank, and in many cases has multiple identities with each bank that it does business with.  Each corporate also has a different identity with each of its suppliers, with each tax department in each country, etc, etc.  Even I have got seven different cards in my wallet to identify me to banks.

So identity is a problem that we all have. One topic that still isn’t getting enough attention is the use of the IBEI – the International Business Entity Identifier.  This ISO standard is aimed at uniquely identifying businesses, not just to banks but to suppliers and customers.

The national numbering agencies in Germany and Switzerland – the lands of efficiency - have already started the process of issuing IBEIs in their own countries. Having a unique identifier makes knowing who’s really who a lot easier.  It doesn’t just help to simplify the payments process – it helps to simplify the whole supply chain operation, STP, ERP, EDM, etc

Corporates are busily making sure that they have their IBANs and BICs on their customer-facing documents, which will make the banks’ lives easier.  But are banks looking at their customers’ problems yet?

An IBAN identifies a bank account – not your company.  A BIC identifies a bank – it’s a network address.  What corporates need is an IBEI – a unique identifier for a business entity.

That would help to solve not just the banks’ problems, but their customers’ problems too.

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