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IFX Version 1.1.0 (Introduction)

Interactive Financial eXchange Business Message Specification Document - Introduction

[Unofficial/approximation: see]

The Interactive Financial Exchange (IFX) Specification provides a robust and scalable framework for the exchange of financial data and instructions independent of a particular network technology or computing platform. The information-sharing potential of IFX has been designed to support communication not only between a Financial Institution and its customers, but also between a Financial Institution and its Service Providers, between Financial Institutions, and eventually directly between customers (e.g., "electronic wallet"). This specification supports existing and emerging financial services and is extensible and customizable for future growth.

The IFX Specification has been developed as a cooperative industry effort among major Financial Institutions, Service Providers, and information technology vendors to these institutions and their customers in the small business and consumer markets. This specification builds on previous industry experience, including the OFX and Gold specifications that are currently implemented by major Financial Institutions and Service Providers to enable the electronic exchange of financial data between them and their customers. The IFX Specification provides a comprehensive specification for new financial industry services and software while providing a common strategic direction for the evolution of existing products and services.

The IFX Specification provides Financial Institutions, their Service Provider vendors, and financial software developers for the small business and consumer markets with a generalized model for financial industry data communications. This generalized model consists of two parts:

A business-level Message Specification and its associated Data Dictionary, which are contained in Volumes 1 and 2, and Implementation specifications, which are available separately at the IFX Forum website.

The IFX Business Message Specification

This document provides the financial services industry with a common set of Business Messages that may be used to provide message-processing services across multiple organizations and networks. This document defines the information that must be sent in a message request and in a message response from a business perspective and provides message semantics for each request and response pair. This document provides the basis for business-level information flow between Financial Institutions, their customers, and third-party Service Providers.

For example, an individual account holder may bank from home using a secure connection over the public Internet to connect to their Financial Institution. The same request message sent from the personal computer in the home may enter the Financial Institution's private data network for processing or be routed to a third-party Service Provider that processes that message on behalf of the Financial Institution. Regardless of the organization that actually processes the message or what computing and network architecture that organization has installed, the customer receives a response message with standard semantics.

IFX Implementation Specifications

Complementary documents called Interactive Financial Exchange Implementation Specifications are expected to provide additional detail on how the business messages defined in this document may be physically represented. Each IFX Implementation Specification is an agreement between vendors and the financial services industry on how to implement the business messages defined in this document. IFX Implementation Specifications also provide the basis for interworking among products and services from various vendors and custom software developed by Financial Institutions and Service Providers.

Design Principles

The IFX Specification has been designed to meet the following principles:

Support a Broad Range of Financial Activities: The IFX Specification is envisioned to incorporate the broad feature sets of the existing OFX and Gold specifications. Version 1.0 provides the following functions:

Bank account balances, account information, statement download for deposit and loan accounts;

Credit card statement download;

Funds transfers, including recurring transfers;

Consumer payments, including recurring payments;

Business payments, including recurring payments;

Bill presentment; and

Customer service.

Support Financial Communications Among a Broad Range of Parties: The IFX Specification supports financial communications among:


Brokerage houses (future)

Service Providers

Financial advisors (future)

Small businesses


Support a Broad Range of Client Devices: The IFX Specification allows Financial Institutions to support customers using a broad range of client devices, including, but not limited to:

World Wide Web access using any standard Web Browser software,

Personal Computers with Personal Financial Manager (PFM) software,

Voice Response Units (VRUs) that provide Bank by Phone services,

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), and

Consumer Handheld Devices such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) or Mobile Telephones with data capabilities.

Support Customers Using Multiple Client Devices: The IFX Specification allows a customer to use multiple client devices to interact with a Financial Institution. All devices get the same data for that customer and provide the customer with a consistent experience. The IFX Specification contains requests, which allow an intelligent client to discover what messages the customer has performed using other client devices.

Flexible: The IFX Specification is designed to provide Financial Institutions and Service Providers with the flexibility they need to rapidly develop, test, and deploy new services. The specification is intended to specify the minimum necessary functionality to provide reliable interactions between systems owned and maintained by customers, their Financial Institutions, and their Service Providers.

Customizable: The IFX Specification allows Financial Institutions and Service Providers to add custom elements, aggregates, or entire messages to rapidly deploy new services or add functionality to existing services. Custom elements, aggregates, and messages should be registered with the IFX Specification governance organization to protect against name collisions. However, registration of custom objects does not obligate any organization to use them in order to be in compliance with the specification.

Extensible: The IFX Specification has been designed to allow for constant evolution through the addition of standardized services that may be easily implemented by Financial Institutions and their customers.

Open: The IFX Specification is publicly available. Solutions for financial communications based on the specification may be built by anyone, independent of any specific technology, vendor, or Financial Institution. IFX is currently maintained through cooperative industry effort and will be evolved into a formal standard over time.

Robust: The IFX Specification is used for the execution of important financial messages and the communication of sensitive financial data. The specification provides customers with confirmation that messages have occurred as planned and notification when scheduled messages fail.

Secure: The IFX Specification provides a secure framework for the development of secure online financial services. IFX relies on industry standard mechanisms to provide secure channels between client and server and provides application-level authentication of customers and Financial Institution and Service Provider staff. Note that application-level authentication between different Service Providers for Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment may be provided through alternate means.

Support Batch and Interactive Sessions: The IFX Specification may be implemented using either batch or interactive session management. The business-level messages are not biased towards either batch or interactive sessions.

International Support: The IFX Specification incorporates significant features for international support, including multiple currencies, and languages. Additional requirements for international support will be addressed as the specification evolves and international requirements are identified.

Platform Independent: The IFX Specification makes no assumptions about the hardware or software available as a client or server. IFX may be implemented on any computing platform.

Transport Independent: The IFX Specification makes no assumptions about the network used for the transport of business-level messages. IFX Implementation Specifications provide details on transport for a specific type of network.

Benefits to Financial Institutions and Service Providers

Customer Acquisition and Retention: Standardization of message sets for financial message processing will remove technical barriers that currently limit an FI's ability to acquire customers for online banking services. These standards will level the competitive playing field for electronic delivery of financial services and allow Financial Institutions to serve new customers for whom appropriate channels have not previously existed. Broader vendor support for these message sets and the associated implementation specifications will stimulate end user adoption of online banking through the availability of a diverse set of client applications that interoperate with any FI that adopts this specification.

Flexibility: Because the semantics and syntax for the request and response message pair are defined end-to-end in IFX and the same message is passed regardless of the network technology, Financial Institutions and Service Providers are not locked into a single vendor or technology. They may find other ways to meet their business objectives if their service is not well supported by a vendor or network provider.

Manageability: Standardization of message sets for financial message processing will remove technical barriers that currently limit an FI's ability to acquire customers for online banking services. This common framework will provide Financial Institutions and their outsourced Service Providers with significant benefits in terms of their ability to manage the development and operation of a portfolio of services for their customers.

Cost Savings: The increased flexibility and manageability of solutions based on the IFX Specification will directly affect the profitability of an online financial service. Financial Institutions and Service Providers that invest in solutions based on IFX will see their investments returned quickly through operational cost savings.

Benefits to Consumers and Small Businesses

Reliability and Performance: Individual consumers and small businesses will receive benefits in reliability and performance through the increased integration of their software with a Financial Institution's systems and networks. The IFX Specification is the product of an unprecedented level of cooperation between developers of consumer and small business financial applications and financial industry high-volume message processing experts.

Consistency of Experience with a Financial Institution: Consumers of online financial services will notice significant improvements in the consistency of their interactions with the Financial Institution through multiple channels as the organizations take advantage of the improved service manageability and flexibility enabled by use of the IFX.

Common Standard Across all Financial Institutions: Small Businesses and Consumers will also benefit from increased financial industry use of the IFX by their increased ability to manage their relationships with Financial Institutions using off-the-shelf software.

Prepared by Robin Cover for The XML Cover Pages archive. See "Interactive Financial eXchange (IFX)."

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