A Single Identity to Better Manage Multiple Banking Relationships

The SWIFT Secure Signature Key – 3SKey for short – is SWIFT’s digital identity solution designed to enable banks and corporates to securely exchange information. The solution allows corporate treasurers to manage their various banking relationships using a single, multi-network personal signature device. This reduces the complexity of managing the ever-increasing number of tokens and passwords typically needed to administer multiple accounts with multiple financial institutions.

Simply put, what 3SKey proposes is a single token with one password that replaces the many different devices such as secure IDs, digipasses, and other tokens that corporate treasurers need to access numerous different websites and bank applications. Indeed, one of our customers commented that 3SKey is the key that allows treasurers to sleep at night.

Early Development

3SKey was launched at Sibos in Amsterdam in October 2010 and has since been adopted by major banks in Europe and more recently in the Americas. These banks are offering 3SKey as the most appropriate solution to meet their corporate customers’ authentication needs, regardless of the channel being used.

Automating highly manual, paper-based processes for corporate-to-bank communication is something both corporates and banks are keen to do. 3SKey can offer specific help in areas such as bank account management where opening, closing and maintaining accounts has in the past often been a painful process. SWIFT also offers an electronic bank account management (eBAM) solution, which helps further automate such process of bank account management including the mandates (power of attorneys) on those accounts.

The eBAM solution, using 3SKey, has been live since mid 2010, while some of SWIFT’s partners and service providers are also adopting 3SKey in their applications to support the industry’s demand for a single, harmonised digital identity solution.

Interest in the Asia-Pacific region is catching up, with several large banks having recently ordered SWIFT’s developer kit, a suite of software that allows end users to easily integrate 3SKey to their back office. Our digital identity solution is proving to be of great interest to banks and corporates in the region because of the large import-export sector and the global bank reach that corporations need in this business. Asian corporate treasurers are eager to explore solutions that will make it easier for them to manage their multiple accounts in the countries where they trade and that can be rolled out to their subsidiaries across Asia and the rest of the world.

Simple, Efficient and Secure

3SKey brings a range of benefits to corporates and banks, the first of which is simplicity. The main advantage for corporate treasurers adopting 3SKey is that they can simplify the signing process across applications and banks. They no longer need to maintain multiple authentication methods.

Second, 3SKey increases efficiency. 3SKey enables the creation of a single credential for a personal signature, providing for seamless transaction processing and allowing both banks and their clients to increase efficiency and reduce operational risks and costs.

Third, 3SKey allows banks and corporates to reduce the costs of managing multiple devices and processes needed to securely exchange financial transactions by using a standardised multi-bank solution for personal identity management that comes with the level of security they expect from SWIFT. Other benefits include:

  • Encryption: 3SKey is built using the latest cryptographic technology. This strengthens the security and minimises risk associated with personal authentication of corporate representatives.
  • Standardisation: 3SKey is built using commonly used industry standards, so it can be easily and rapidly integrated in corporate and bank applications, including online web channels offered by the banks to their corporate clients. SWIFT has pledged to ensure the technology at the heart of 3SKey is updated as cryptographic techniques develop, allowing banks and corporates benefit from the latest developments in this space.
  • Multi-network: 3SKey can be used on the SWIFT network, proprietary bank channel (bank web interfaces), domestic networks, and other private channels.

For banks, the value proposition of 3SKey is twofold. First, because SWIFT handles all of the public key infrastructure (PKI)-related processes as a trusted party, 3SKey provides an opportunity for a bank to outsource these operations. Second, it allows banks to remain in control of their own registration and know your customer (KYC) processes when enrolling their customers’ tokens.

The French Pilot Programme

The launch of 3SKey in October 2010 followed a successful pilot in France involving banks such as Société Générale (SocGen), BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole CIB, HSBC and BPCE, and several large companies including Danone, France Télécom and Airbus.

France was chosen for the pilot because of the industry’s urgent demand for a domestic digital authentication standard. “The fastest way to encourage adoption was to start with a community like France, which didn’t have a domestic standard,” says Luc Meurant, head of banking, supply chain and corporate markets at SWIFT. “For domestic markets that already have a solution that works well, there may be no point changing it. However, multinational corporates do not want different solutions for each different domestic market, so 3SKey meets their needs to be more efficient across these markets.”

Pierre Jalade, vice president treasury, Airbus SAS, said: “The successful 3SKey pilot has been a great opportunity for Airbus to validate the SWIFT certificate solution. I am fully convinced that 3SKey is setting the new industry-wide standard for personal signatures. With 3SKey, SWIFT is certainly providing, to corporate treasurers operating in an international environment, the most appropriate answer to authentication requirements.

“My aim is now to cascade it to all my banks in all the countries where we operate,” added Jalade.

Martine Boutineau, head of international cash management, corporate cash management, SocGen, said: “3SKey has helped us simplify time-consuming processes for our customers. The pilot confirmed that the banks and their corporate customers are willing to adopt the solution and create a standard for the financial industry in the digital identity space. We are already preparing to offer 3SKey to our corporate users and not just on SWIFT but also on other networks in France.”

As of 1Q11, SWIFT has over 779 corporate entities registered on SWIFT, of which 10% are in Asia. There are three areas of opportunity for the development and adoption of 3SKey in Asia:

  1. Traditional treasury.
  2. Electronic banking (e-banking).
  3. The community approach.

SWIFT is becoming an option for traditional treasury and corporate treasurers are seeing the value of our proposition. As far as electronic banking is concerned, there are 3SKey offers opportunities to banks interested in strengthening or outsourcing the authentication infrastructure on their proprietary channels. We have seen keen interest for our 3SKey solution from some countries that are interested to roll out a common PKI, but for SWIFT this is a totally new area that needs to be carefully examined before entering it.


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