Australian banks launch e-signature trials

All of the major Australian banks are testing digital signatures with their business customers over the next three months to meet the changing face of the global e-business world.

As part of a worldwide trend by financial institutions to set international standards for secure electronic transactions an alliance has been formed utilizing eSign Australia Ltd.’s public key infrastructure services and iPlanet’s trustbase transaction manager to provide technology for the trial.

The vendors are working with Identrus LLC, a global network of financial institutions established in 1999 with A$3.5 trillion (US$1.8 trillion) worth of assets covering 133 countries.

Identrus was established to provide a framework of standards to enable member banks to operate as trusted third parties for e-commerce transactions. eSign Australia managing director Gregg Rowley said the banks are only now investigating PKI because the framework to legally facilitate e-commerce was introduced last year when the government passed the Electronic Transaction Act.

“The aim is to facilitate growth of B2B e-commerce in Australia by helping financial institutions establish the high-level of trust required to participate; we can now offer financial institutions an integrated suite of products that securely delivers certificates on smart cards to end users,” Rowley said.

“In reality banks are still in a paper-based world but this test drive program we are offering for the Identrus system allows financial institutions to try these technologies over the Internet with minimum effort and cost.”

Financial institutions worldwide are adopting technology to support the transfer of funds with standard processes such as lending, letters of credit and foreign exchange.

But this trend is changing the relationship between banker and customer particularly with the advent of B2B marketplaces.

Identrus project team general manager from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) Bill Cameron said e-commerce is radically changing the traditional role of banks.

“In the past banks didn’t engage in trade negotiations but did payments; in the electronic universe we can bring a greater value proposition to customers through Identrus which is creating ways to find new trading partners for our customers,” Cameron said.

“The bank will be leading customers by the hand and taking them to the marketplace; we have the most important ingredient required in this relationship, trust; we already share secrets with our customers.”

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