Arch enemies Microsoft and Intuit have joined forces to create a technical specification for the transmission of financial data.
Together with US electronic commerce firm CheckFree, the pair have agreed to develop a standard called Open Financial Exchange. This will enable financial institutions to exchange data over the Internet with Web users and with users of Intuit's Quicken and Microsoft's Money home banking packages. The specification is a merging of Microsoft's Open Financial Connectivity, Intuit's OpenExchange and CheckFree's electronic banking and payment protocols.
Open Financial Exchange will be publicly available for implementation by financial institutions from the autumn.
In addition, the three partners said software based on the Open Financial Exchange specification will link with the Integrion Financial Services platform and its Gold Message Standard. Integrion is an electronic banking organisation owned by a partnership of major banks and IBM.
"This cooperative effort supports Integrion's operating principle of providing an open product offering to financial institutions through multiple access devices," said Bill Fenimore, managing director of Integrion. "This will result in an increasingly valuable service for the end consumer."
A similar link is also promised to Visa Interactive's ADMS network, which will give financial institutions access to Visa's bill payment system.
Initially, Open Financial Exchange will support activities such as consumer and small business banking, bill payment and investment. Other activities likely to be included in the future include financial planning, insurance and tax preparation and filing.
The three partners claim the specification will streamline the process financial institutions need to go through to connect to multiple customer interfaces, processors and systems integrators, and will enable consumers to manage their personal finances online.
Banks were enthusiastic about the new specification. "This is a major step forward for the industry," said Jerry Rao, divisional executive at Citibank's development division. "It is great news for consumers, giving them access to their provider of choice while eliminating the extra costs inherent in multiple proprietary interfaces."
"This can only lead to benefits for consumers and financial institutions and give further momentum to the development of electronic banking and finance," added Bill Bougourd, head of electronic communications at the Royal Bank of Scotland.
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