Do you want to know more about bLink and open banking? Our FAQ section has you covered!
- What is bLink?
With bLink, SIX provides the Swiss financial services sector with a standardized and secure open banking infrastructure to enable data-driven innovation and the creation of new, scalable ecosystems. Key elements of bLink are:
- state-of-the-art APIs based on leading industry standards (e.g. Common API and OpenWealth) which bLink participants can use to both provide and/or consume data;
- a single, uniform platform contract for all participants, which eliminates the need for time-consuming individual contracting between participants;
- a uniform admission test to gain access to the platform and all its participants, so banks and fintechs don’t have to conduct or pass individual due diligence processes for each counterparty they want to connect to; and
- easy and transparent digital consent management for end users (e.g. SMEs, private persons or independent asset managers) to connect their bank accounts to an application of their choice, without any paperwork and in just a few seconds.
We strive to create the ideal basis for innovative partnerships between banks and third-party providers of finance-related software applications (e.g. fintechs) to foster the development of new services and products for their mutual customers while significantly improving time to market and scalability.
- What are open banking and open finance?
Open banking means that banks grant trustworthy third-party providers (TPPs) of finance-related software applications (e.g. fintechs) access to financial and customer data on behalf of their mutual customers, such as corporates or private persons. To facilitate this on a technological level, banks provide what are known as Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to which TPPs can connect to and obtain or exchange data. Within the scope of open banking there are two main API-based services that banks provide that allow for a variety of use cases, depending on how a TPP or a bank is using the data it obtains from a bank:
- Access to Account (XS2A), which allows a TPP or another bank to integrate a customer's payment account information into its own software application to create new services in the area of accounting, multibanking, liquidity management and many more
- Payment Initiation, which allows a TPP to initiate bank account payments directly from its own software application without the need to approve the payment in the banks online banking (Note: In Switzerland and on the bLink platform, this service is called Payment Submission and currently requires the customer to release the payment in the bank’s online banking)
Both services always require the initial approval of the bank’s and TPP’s mutual customer, which is given digitally via what is called consent management (check out the FAQ section Your customers, i.e. the end users for more information) that includes strong customer authentication, allowing the exchange of customer data between a bank and a TPP. Ultimately, open banking therefore is a customer-driven innovation which reveals other key benefits: more data transparency, data control, and data leverage.
While open banking applies to the payment area, open finance is simply the extension of the same data exchange principle to other financial areas such as wealth management, lending, insurances or pensions.
- What are APIs and why does it make sense to use standardized APIs?
API stands for “Application Programming Interface” and describes a technical interface that enables the communication between different software applications for specific use cases. In simpler terms, a company can source relevant data and information internally or from another company. The API acts as the bridge or messenger in between.
An API is defined by a set of rules and specifications that determine what data is exchanged with whom and how (e.g. in what format).
Open banking generally promotes the use of uniform API standards which harmonize these rules and specifications for specific areas where data is exchanged (e.g. accounts & payments, wealth management, loans, pensions etc.). Defining such API standards creates clear, efficient and scalable data flows between all the parties that use the same standard and the open banking ecosystem as whole. An API that is based on such a standard, hence, is called a standardized API or Open API.
- Does SIX define the API standards on bLink?
No, our mission is to operationalize the leading API standards defined by the industry and scale them via bLink in the Swiss financial market. That’s why we work closely together with leading standardization initiatives to ensure adaptability and scalability.
Currently, key Swiss open banking APIs are listed under the umbrella of the Common API developed by the industry initiative Swiss Fintech Innovations (SFTI). This includes APIs in the areas of accounts, payments, mortgages and wealth management – the latter was launched by the popular initiative OpenWealth, represented by the association of the same name.
- Which APIs are currently available on bLink, and what are the use cases they enable?
Check out the tab Services in the website’s top navigation.
- Is open banking regulated in Switzerland?
In contrast to the majority of international open banking developments, Switzerland is currently following a market-driven approach, meaning banks and fintechs get to proactively shape the development of open banking in the Swiss market. However, banks are expected to open up faster, as postulated in the Federal Council's report Digital Finance: Fields of Action 2022+ in the beginning of 2022 and in an official press release issued in December 2022. The mentioned report states: If the progress is deemed insufficient, e.g. with regard to client and investor interests, the Federal Council shall instruct the FDF/SIF to submit a proposal to it on possible measures, including the examination of a statutory obligation to open up access to data via standardized interfaces.
You can also find more information on open banking governance in Switzerland via Swiss Banking here.
- Is it possible to provide or consume other types of APIs or services apart from open APIs?
bLink is driven to bring together data providers and data consumers in a secure and scalable way. Besides the operationalization of classic open banking and open finance APIs (e.g. access to account, payments, OpenWealth), we also see great potential in providing partner APIs via bLink in the form of an API marketplace. A partner API is usually a service-specific API that can be consumed by many. By leveraging the existing bLink contract, admission test, technical infrastructure, and support, we enable great scalability for such API services.
Contact us for more information.
- Why does bLink play a key role in the development of open banking in Switzerland?
Check out the section Why SIX has launched bLink under About us, where you can also find out more about our vision, the mission we set ourselves and the team behind bLink.
- Who can participate on bLink?
As an open banking platform, bLink is tailored to any bank or third-party provider (TPP) of financial services (usually a fintech) that wants to exchange data and data-based services via API in an efficient, secure, and scalable way.
There are two roles participants can take on bLink: as a Service Provider and as a Service User.
- What is a Service Provider?
A Service Provider offers one or more data-based services to Service Users via API on bLink. Both banks and fintechs can participate as Service Providers.
- What is a Service User?
A Service User consumes one or more data-based services offered by Service Providers via API on bLink and integrates them into its own solution or application. Both banks and fintechs can participate as Service Users.
- Do I have to support all APIs on bLink?
Both as a Service Provider and as a Service User, you can decide which APIs you want to provide or consume, based on what suits your use case best.
- Do I have to exchange data with each participant on the platform?
As a Service User, you can generally chose from which Service Providers you want to obtain data (i.e. from those with whom you share mutual customer relationships) by initiating API calls.
Service Providers, on the other hand, have the possibility to define what are known as routing instructions for specific Service Users. This means that a Service Provider instructs SIX – as the bLink platform operator – not to route service calls from one or more Service Users to the Service Provider in question. However, this rarely happens. Service Users affected by a routing instruction can use an API call to check which Service Providers potentially prevent them from accessing their APIs and the respective customer data.
Contract and legal
- How does the legal framework on bLink work, and what are its benefits?
The legal framework on bLink is regulated in a uniform platform contract that is signed between each bank or fintech and SIX. This saves participants from cumbersome and costly bilateral contract negotiations with each respective counterparty. The platform contract regulates all relevant issues concerning the connection of banks and fintechs and is constructed as follows:
- Participation Contract: regulations on admission, obligations of SIX and participants, compensation, involvement of participants, data protection and liability, drawing up and minimum content of the application contracts
- Annexes to the Participation Contract: admission criteria, applications, general service level agreement, price list, data security
- What is an “application” as defined in the bLink platform contract?
An application describes a set of APIs that belong to the same area of banking business. The current APIs on bLink are summarized into the following two applications:
- Accounts & Payments, consisting of the Account Information Services API and the Payment Submission Services API
- OpenWealth, consisting of the Custody Services API, the Customer Management API and Order Placement API
The applications are further described in Annex 2 of the participation agreement (check our contract documents under guide for banks or guide for fintechs) in business terms and in the bLink Docs in technical terms respectively. You can also find out more about the individual APIs under Services in the top navigation of the website.
- What is the legal status of bLink?
bLink is the name of the platform which is run by SIX BBS Ltd. SIX BBS Ltd is a subsidiary of SIX Group Ltd and the contracting party in the participation contract for the bLink platform.
- Who is responsible for hosting and running the bLink platform?
SIX BBS Ltd is responsible for the hosting as well as the platform management of bLink (i.e. runs the platform).
- What kind of data is stored on SIX servers?
SIX does not store any payload data of API calls (i.e. the content of API calls and the responses to them which contain a participant’s customer data). For the operation of the platform, bLink stores data about the participants (banks, fintechs) such as name, logo, contact information or information in connection to the admission of participants (i.e. information about the directors of the company, information related to compliance with requirements of the bLink admission, etc.) and log metadata of the API calls (URL, timestamp, IPs, size, headers, etc.).
- Who checks the integrity of banks and fintechs on bLink?
Before participants can onboard to the bLink platform, they have to pass a standardized admission test to ensure that they meet the required admission criteria, e.g. that data exchanged via bLink is handled with the required diligence and security. Find out more about the platform admission in the next chapter Platform admission & onboarding.
Plattform admission & onboarding
- How can I join the bLink platform?
To onboard the bLink platform, you’ll run through three phases: First is the Get-to-Know Phase, which includes the initial contact with us, access to and studying of the bLink documentation (contract, pricing, admission test, technical specifications, etc.) and your decision to join the platform. This is followed by the Onboarding Phase, which includes the connection to bLink, the implementation of the APIs, and the final validation on both the business and technical level in the context of our standardized admission test. Once you have passed the admission test, you’re ready for Go Live.
- How long does the onboarding process take?
There are a few factors that influence your onboarding time, such as the complexity of your business, the availability of your internal capacities and resources to run the standardized admission test, and the quality of your technical implementation*. Based on our experience, the onboarding process takes around 8–12 weeks on average.
*By technical implementation we mean the development and implementation of all desired API modules and their technical validation (quality check by SIX). The technical validation marks the final step in the technical part of the onboarding, where you’ll need to verify in a mutual session that the consent flow as well as all applied API use cases are correctly implemented and meet the requirements and specifications of bLink.
- What is examined during the bLink admission test?
The admission test for bLink can be categorized in two areas:
- General: This examines general criteria such as the entry in a commercial register, potential sanctions or unethical corporate purposes, sustainability of the business plan etc. to prove your integrity and stability as a business.
- Security: This examines whether certain security criteria are consistent with the platform’s requirements, especially with regards to data protection.
Please note: FINMA-regulated banks don’t need to provide the respective evidences for the general and security tests, as they’re already covered by FINMA regulations.
- How does SIX make admission testing easier for fintechs?
SIX strives to keep the effort for fintechs to connect to bLink as low as possible. For this reason, SIX offers Consent-as-a-Service (CaaS) to make it easier for you to meet certain security-related criteria in the context of the platform’s admission test.
- How often is the admission test carried out?
The admission test is carried out during the initial onboarding to bLink. A quick recurring annual check ensures continuous compliance with general and security criteria during operation on bLink.
- What does the bLink admission test cost me?
SIX charges a fee for onboarding to bLink which includes the admission test. Excluded are internal costs and effort by the platform applicant.
- What are the benefits of the standardized bLink admission test performed by SIX?
In contrast to non-uniform, individual admission tests, standardized processes not only are faster and much more cost-efficient for both banks and fintechs but also guarantee high security within the platform. For banks, this also means connecting with trusted fintechs, while fintechs benefit from accredited access to a growing network of banks.
- Are there developer portal and testing environment available?
Yes, check out our section For Developers to see what tools your developers will be able to work with.
- What does the pricing for bLink look like?
- Do your customers (i.e. end users) have to pay anything to use bLink?
No, the bLink pricing applies only to the banks and fintechs connected to the platform, not to the end users. However, whether and in what form bLink participants decide to charge their customers for services enabled by open banking is of course up to them.
Your customers (i.e. the end users)
- What does consent in the context of open banking mean exactly?
In order to exchange customer data between a bank and a fintech, the consent of the respective individual customer is required. That means that customers always have full control over their data and also complete transparency about who receives their data and what it is used for. Accordingly, they also must be able to revoke their consent at any time.
- How can your customers give and manage consent to integrate their banking data into your app with bLink?
If you’re a developer, you can read into more technical detail with regards to consent management in our bLink Docs.