How to Unify Banking Data Across Modern and Traditional File Formats

Written by Jason Mountford
July 5, 2024

You may wonder what the following question has to do with transaction data and bank file formats, but bear with me for a moment.

Are you a green bubble or a blue bubble in your group chat? Regardless of which side of this tongue-in-cheek battle between Apple aficionados and Android activists you land on, there’s a huge amount of technical wrangling going on behind the scenes to allow these two operating systems to talk to each other.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, this is where two iPhone users can text each other via iMessage, which shows up as a blue bubble, whereas messages from Android or other OS users show up as a green bubble. That difference also means that photos and videos are transferred at lower quality and features like custom emojis aren’t available.

Yes, it’s definitely a first world problem, but it is also a simple example of a widespread challenge when it comes to transferring any type of digital information. Sending data from one place to another creates a maze of file formats and transfer protocols that all work differently, and getting those systems to play nice can be very difficult.

An area where this issue presents more tangible problems is finance. Treasurers have to navigate a jungle of file formats and standards in an attempt to aggregate their financial data. In many cases, they have to rely on manually gathering and combining the data using spreadsheets.

That’s not a good use of time and resources. But now, it doesn’t have to be that way. Trovata has become the global standard for modern corporate bank APIs and legacy file transfer protocols like SWIFT and SFTP, offering unparalleled connectivity and data access.  

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Untangling the Banking Data Maze

There are a huge number of different file standards and formats that have been created to send secure data. These have been developed over the past 50+ years, with different countries, companies, and organizations developing them independently. This has led to the situation we find ourselves in now, with a mix of file types and transfer methods for sending data that Treasurers somehow need to aggregate.

Some of the most common file and transfer types you typically need to deal with include:

  • BAI – BA1 which was first created 1980, and upgraded to BAI2 in 1987. The standard was specifically created for cash management reporting in corporate banking, and it’s still widely used today.
  • ISO 20022 XML files – ISO 20022 is a standardized methodology and format designed to create consistency in data transfers. The most common actual file type used to transfer this data is an XML file. Therefore, not all XML files are ISO 20022. Oh yes, and we’re only just scratching the surface!
  • SWIFT – An international financial messaging service that allows banks to communicate. It’s commonly used to send and receive international payments.
  • APIs – The most modern integration of data, an API creates a link that allows two software systems to communicate. This eliminates the need for individual file-based data transfers, and instead creates an ‘always-on’ link that creates a mirror of the data between the two software platforms (e.g. a bank and a third-party cash management platform like Trovata).
  • SFTP – Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) fits into the financial ecosystem as a secure method for transferring files, including those containing sensitive banking data such as BAI files.
  • ACH – The Automated Clearing House system is used to transfer payments within the US.
  • CSV files – Let’s not forget the humble spreadsheet. There are many requirements for data to be transferred through a plain old Excel file, usually sent via unsecure email.

Now, while a Treasurer has to navigate all this and more, you might not even realize it. For non-technical people (myself included), the way it becomes apparent is when there’s an issue with your data. Either the information from a particular bank can’t be pulled into your ERP or TMS, the data that does come through is outdated or limited, or it’s simply not possible to make a payment from one type of account to another. 

In many cases, finance and treasury teams come up with their own custom methods of aggregating all this data, much of which involves manual consolidation on spreadsheets and initiating payments through multiple banking portals. But Trovata has now solved this problem, and has created a new global standard for banking data aggregation.

The Modern Treasurer’s Data Lake

Trovata has been built as an API-first treasury solution, offering all of the significant benefits that come with using APIs for data aggregation. But while APIs are the future, in the real world we know that Treasurers still have to deal with a vast array of banking and financial platforms, some of which may not yet have a live API.

That’s why Trovata has been designed to accept data across all of the different file formats and data networks that treasury and finance teams need. Regardless of whether you’re using BAI2 files to access cash data, ISO 2022 XML files, or the SWIFT network.

This connectivity-rich system gives treasury and finance teams the capabilities to see all of their banking data, in one place, regardless of the technical architecture behind the scenes. 

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Going back to our iPhone and Android examples from earlier, it’s like being able to access all of your email, iMessage, Slack, Teams, Zoom, fax, and regular post in one place. No need to log into multiple platforms and manually consolidate information.

The Power of Data Standardization Across Bank File Formats

There’s another benefit that comes from this process, which is the standardization of all of your banking data. While it may all come into Trovata using a variety of different file formats and transfer methods, the platform automatically normalizes all of it.

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There are two key ways this improves finance and treasury capabilities:

Data Manipulation

With all of your banking and financial data available and standardized, a vast array of possibilities open up for ways to manipulate that data. Whether it’s custom reports that can be designed based on almost any filter or specification imaginable, or powerful financial forecasts that extrapolate the data out based on various assumptions.

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Being able to cut and dissect the data and look at various future scenarios provides Treasurers with valuable insights that help them make better strategic decisions.

Bridge to ERP

The second significant benefit of this process of data normalization is in allowing Trovata to act as a connector between disparate financial data, and other systems that are being used in the organization.

The most obvious example is an ERP. While ERPs have the native ability to connect to financial data sources, these come at a hefty upfront and ongoing cost, need to be created individually, and struggle to deal with the compatibility issues of the various file formats and transfer methods.

These limitations also lead to data that is incomplete or lacking depth, which makes accurate forecasting a challenge. Trovata can act as the aggregator for all of this data, which can then be fed into the ERP with a single connection.

If you need to add additional banks or subsidiaries to your platform, you can simply add these to Trovata. Rather than having to create a specific connection to your ERP which could take months, with an API connection, this could be done in a matter of hours.

Trovata: The Global Standard for Bank Connectivity

Trovata offers treasury and finance teams the capability they need to make better strategic decisions. The extensive library of corporate bank APIs, and the ability to collect and standardize data from traditional file types, provides seamless integration with your banking partners, opening up instant access to all of your financial data.

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Trovata is the first and only company to establish a standard across corporate bank APIs and all legacy file formats, including SWIFT. This means it can connect you to your bank data through any method, delivering it in a standardized format within a single platform.

We help you identify available connectivity options based on your unique bank mix and manage implementation and maintenance for you.

Leveraging Amazon Web Services’ global data center network, Trovata’s cloud-native architecture is perfectly suited for the dynamic nature and rich data of real-time bank APIs. This infrastructure supports transformative possibilities for treasury management, making corporate banking data usable for a wider range of purposes, including:

  • Cash flow analysis
  • Forecasting
  • Business intelligence
  • High-performance search
  • AI powered by natural language processing

This democratizes best practices in corporate treasury management, making cash, liquidity, and risk management faster, cheaper, more flexible, scalable, and accessible than ever before.

Finally, Trovata gives you access to next generation data analytics. You can benefit from features like automated transaction tagging, sophisticated search tools, multi-entity management, and automated reporting and forecasting.

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Embrace the future of treasury management with Trovata, and transform how you handle your corporate banking data. To learn more, book a demo today.

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