STEP2: the pan-European ACH
In a nutshell
STEP2 is a Pan-European Automated Clearing House (PE-ACH) for retail payments in euro. STEP2 provides a state-of-the art network-independent processing engine, which is based on global XML-based ISO standards and is fully compliant with the EPC SCT and SDD Scheme Implementation Guidelines.
The STEP2 platform is a highly resilient processing system with full disaster recovery features and operational procedures that are regularly tested with the user community. It provides the following key benefits:
- A scalable processing engine
- A highly experienced technical operator (SIA)
- Three processing sites
- Three operations centres for system monitoring running in parallel mode
- Customer support for operational queries and emergency situations
- Crisis simulation exercises
- ISO 27001 certification
The platform also ensures full straight-through processing of all transactions in the interbank space and offers its users the most advanced standard functionality based on latest technology:
- 24-hour file sending, payment warehousing and scheduling of payments in a specific cycle
- Several same-day and optional night-time settlement cycles
- Payment cancellation and recall functionality
- Network independence: direct participants can connect to the STEP2 central system through SWIFTNet, SIANet and EBICS. Further network solutions can be added subject to evolving user requirements
- Machine-readable routing tables
- Interactive workstation
- Reconciliation reports and statistical data
This set of advanced standard features optimally supports participant banks in managing their payment traffic on the STEP2 platform and their own processing capacities in a very efficient and flexible manner.
For more information on STEP2, please consult our e-book and STEP2 Services – Straight thru SEPA.
A short history
Back in 1999, EBA CLEARING took the decision to implement a mass payment system based on direct bank participation from all EU Member States with the objective to eliminate bank-internal routing costs, reduce reconciliation costs, enforce STP standards and ensure operational resilience.
The first service was launched in April 2003 for processing credit transfers that are compliant with the convention on credit transfers in euro, i.e. retail payments of up to 50,000 euro per transaction, in accordance with the requirements of EC Regulation 2560/2001, which was superseded by EC Regulation 924/2009.
By processing payments governed by the Convention on Credit Transfers in Euro, the STEP2 XCT Service provided banks across Europe with an efficient and very cost-effective ACH-type service for their cross-border retail transactions. The XCT Service was closed down in December 2011 as part of the industry’s migration to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). At its peak, the XCT Service processed nearly half a million payments per day, with over 100 direct participants providing reach across Europe.
Between 25th September and 6th October 2006, the banking community of Luxembourg migrated its domestic traffic to the STEP2 platform, thus becoming the first community to move from a local ACH to a PE-ACH.
The use of STEP2 put the Luxembourg banks in a position to improve service levels and reduce their infrastructure investment and maintenance cost by phasing out their legacy infrastructure.
In preparation for SEPA, a second service - the Italian Credit Transfer (ICT) Service - was launched in November 2006 with a community of eight Italian banks acting as pilots, enhancing the existing features and functions through a STEP2 Domestic Service being subsequently the basis for a future SEPA service. The service provided the major Italian banks with a smooth and efficient path for gradually migrating their legacy credit transfers to SEPA. The STEP2 ICT Service was closed down on 26th September 2014, following the successful migration to SEPA of the ICT participants.
Before the SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) Service went live in January 2008, more than 100 institutions participated in the EBA CLEARING SEPA Testing programme as part of the thorough preparations for operational readiness in SEPA and direct participation in the PE-ACH. The SCT Service allows the European banks to send their SEPA-compliant credit payments to one processing pipeline as it has been mandatory for these banks to offer SEPA payment instruments to their customers since 28th January 2008.
From November 2008 to December 2011, the Finnish banking community migrated its domestic credit transfers to STEP2. This allowed the Finnish banks to close down their domestic infrastructure and reduce internal costs.
The STEP2 SEPA Core Direct Debit Service and the STEP2 SEPA B2B Direct Debit Service on the STEP2 platform were both launched on 2nd November 2009, the launch date of the EPC SEPA SDD Core and B2B Schemes.
In October 2011, the STEP2 Irish Transfer (IET) Service was launched with a view to facilitating the migration of the Irish banking community to SEPA. On 31st July 2014, the STEP2 IET Service was closed down, following the successful migration to SEPA.
Through its SCT and SDD offerings, STEP2 provides banks across Europe with one channel through which they can send and receive their SEPA Credit Transfers as well as their SEPA Direct Debits. Today, EBA CLEARING’s PE-ACH platform reaches nearly 100 percent of all banks that have signed the SCT and SDD Scheme Adherence Agreements of the European Payments Council (EPC) and thereby enables banks to offer SEPA-compliant payment services to their customers across all 34 SEPA countries.
BenefitsSTEP2 is highly automated, simple to use and based on broadly accepted industry standards as well as the latest technology. STEP2 receives and sends large batches of payments, which contributes to making the system efficient and cost-effective.
STEP2 processing includes the STP validation of payment instructions, their routing to the beneficiary banks as well as an automated settlement in EURO1/STEP1 at the beginning of the day for the STEP2 ICT Service. The STEP2 SEPA Services settle in TARGET2.
Taking into account the banks' different needs with regard to their payment business, STEP2 allows for direct participation and for reachability via an existing direct participant. Reachable PSPs that are not themselves a direct participant in STEP2 are connected to a direct participant with whom they have reached a bilateral agreement. They are reachable in STEP2 through this direct participant.
For more information on the STEP2 pricing, please click here.