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Banks Sign On to B2B Standard

Fifteen global financial institutions invest in the Identrus-based Project Eleanor, aimed at providing secure direct business-to-business payments on the Internet.

Fifteen global financial institutions have invested in the Identrus-based Project Eleanor, aimed at providing secure direct business-to-business payments on the Internet. Several are conducting pilot activities, encompassing North America, Europe and Asia.

Project Eleanor provides Web-based specifications to initiate B2B payments linking into existing bank systems. Using Eleanor, trading partners will have an alternative to traditional paper-based payment instruments to execute an e-business transaction. Identrus has been testing an initial reference application since August in concert with Sun Microsystems and its iPlanet e-Commerce Solutions software division. The companies helped develop the open Eleanor payments specification and pilot.

Project Eleanor includes six B2B e-payment types, including payment order, payment obligation, certified payment obligation, conditional payment order, conditional payment obligation and certified conditional payment obligation. Trading partners will have pre-established instructions with their banks for payment authorization, routing and settlement. Identrus also has assumed ownership of Eleanor, which originally was an independent joint venture of the financial institutions.

The financial institutions conducting Eleanor pilots are ABN AMRO, HypoVereinsbank, Sanwa Bank/UFJ and Wells Fargo. A second wave of financial institutions plan to join the pilot during the first half of 2002. Project Eleanor is expected to go into full production mid-year.

"Identrus-secured payments through Eleanor are designed to close the gap in B2B e-commerce activities," according to Jane Hennessy, senior vice president at Wells Fargo, one of the pilot financial institutions. The backing of Identrus global financial institutions is establishing Project Eleanor as the emerging e-payment standard for the next stage of online payments, she added.

Eleanor helps ensure that payments evolve seamlessly from the negotiation and ordering process instead of being a separate activity; that complete payment information-what is being ordered, paid for, when and how -is inextricably linked to the electronic payment function itself; bank processes required to execute the payment are transparent to the trading partner; and the system mitigates risk, resolves disputes and creates financing tools.

"It's tremendously convenient and efficient when payments are a seamless part of the B2B transaction, and not separate from finding a trading partner, negotiating the deal, signing the contract and delivering the goods," said Jeanne Capachin, an analyst at Meridien Research. "That brings B2B commerce entirely online, which is only viable with identity trust backed by highly reputable third parties like financial institutions."

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