Banks trial Internet B2B payment service

A consortium of leading banks is trialling a ground-breaking Internet payment service for the lucrative business-to-business...

A consortium of leading banks is trialling a ground-breaking Internet payment service for the lucrative business-to-business market.

In a major leap forward for Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology, the Project Eleanor scheme uses the platform of industry trust body Indentrus to trigger high-value payments between businesses.

Eleanor is aimed at companies of all sizes across all industries. It could simplify electronic payments and potentially handle billions of pounds in trade payments worldwide.

Banks participating in the scheme - which include Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest and ABN Amro - will offer the payment initiation facilities as an extra service to their customers. They will be an alternative to current paper-based systems and settlement networks.

Based around the Internet data standard XML, Eleanor is due to hit the market in the second quarter of next year. It will be the first major application based on the Identrus platform.

Eleanor's backers claim it will cut costs for businesses wanting to trade online and help them manage their cashflow better by allowing buyers to specify the time of payments.

John Bullard, managing director for participant relations and sales at Identrus, said, "This is the first major manifestation of a resilient and well-prepared trust infrastructure for customers."

Identrus is also keen to target the service at organisations across the financial community and outside the banking industry, said Bullard.

Analysts believe it has a good chance of success, thanks to the backing of the banks, but said it would face competition from other payments services.

Duncan Brown, consulting director at analyst firm Ovum, said, "It is a good application to focus on as banks should be promoting secure payment. It probably stands a good chance of success."

However, competition in the business-to-business payment market is hotting up. Financial communications infrastructure provider Swift plans to launch a secure payment initiation service over the Internet in the first quarter of next year.

The Swift payment offering will also use digital certificate technology from Identrus. However, a Swift spokesman said the company is holding discussions with Identrus in an attempt to avoid direct competition between the two services.

Identrus won clearance for its network from the European Commission earlier this month. The commission said that the Identrus trust system would not restrict competition within the European Union.

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