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Oberthur Fiduciaire: over 70 central banks among references

The peculiar “club“ of private cash printers has a very confidential nature. Earlier, there was quite a number of such companies, but numerous mergers and acquisitions in recent decades have resulted in a kind of oligopoly in this unusual market. Those who survived are few and far between.

Strange as it may seem, printing money is not a very profitable business. Ink, special paper, printing equipment and other components of banknote production cannot be used for other purposes. Therefore, financial results of the “moneymakers” activities completely depend on contracts with central banks. Once you lose a couple of large customers, you can say goodbye to your profit. That is why reputation is extremely important for companies operating in the market, and each customer is worth its weight in gold. French security printer Oberthur Fiduciaire understands this all too well. During more than a century and a half of its existence, the company has accumulated enough experience to successfully cooperate with more than 70 banks around the world.

Certification and Quality

One of the largest markets of security printing is the euro banknotes. Compared to other currencies, it is huge: more than 5.72 billion banknotes were printed in 2017 alone. However, there are very few producers of euro banknotes, among which is Oberthur Fiduciaire, and this is partly due to the difficulty of obtaining ECB accreditation. The certificate of the European Central Bank is the last step, and it is necessary to receive several other certificates such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 and others before turning to the ECB. These certificates issued by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), guarantee traceability and quality of the finished product as well as the entire supply chain according to several criteria: anti-bribery, safety, respect for the environment, origin of suppliers, etc. For example, the new ISO 37001 is the highest barrier to fight against corruption elaborated by the ISO, which level of requirement is no longer to be proven. Founded in 1947, the ISO organization which works in over 150 countries was one of the first to be granted general consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

It is also necessary to prove that the manufacturer works exclusively with accredited suppliers of components for printing banknotes. Conventional typographic inks or plain paper are not suitable for printing banknotes, explains Oberthur Fiduciaire’s CEO Thomas Savare: “Banknote paper is a very specific one, only used for banknotes, and manufactured by extremely niche suppliers who will only sell to recognized banknote printers (state printers or private printers). The same goes for the ink, which is made exclusively for banknote printing. The ink is resistant and has integrated security features, to be long lasting. You won’t find these requirements anywhere else in the printing industry. It’s very unique – from the holograms designed for banknotes to the threads specifically designed to be incorporated in the banknote paper. The entire supply chain is dedicated to this industry and that’s a large part of the security of a banknote.”

After all necessary certificates are received, every supplier is identified and an application for accreditation is submitted, the ECB commences the assessment. It takes place both on-site and off-site, and covers not just technical parameters and production safety, but also environmental, health, anti-bribery and safety requirements.

The ECB accreditation is difficult to obtain, but it’s worth it. The complexity of the audit confirms that the production is at the highest level. In turn, this is a signal for other banks that an ECB-certified security printer is indeed a professional.

Technology and Controlled Supply Chain

It is not enough just to get a certificate in order to become a prominent figure in the market. Not only you need a sufficient number of papers, but also an innovative approach and tight control of the production chain. Combined, these two criteria improve the quality and, most importantly, ensure security of the finished product against forgery.

“When it comes to strategy, -says Thomas Savare, we have to master the printing techniques themselves, but we also have to master the job of integrating different technologies, different substrates and different security features. We have to do that within an environment that is highly industrial, because we’re supplying billions of individuals with products that are numbered and personalized. And these products need to be so secure that forgery would be impossible, with the resistance needed to last the day-to-day use of a banknote.”

To additionally secure the production chain, Oberthur Fiduciaire acquired a manufacturer of specialized paper VHP Security Paper a year ago. Apart from the existing patents for banknote security technologies, this acquisition made Oberthur a truly modern and innovative company with a long history: “VHP Security Paper has been producing and supplying state-of-the-art banknote paper throughout the world for more than 200 years. It was the right choice and the perfect match for both Oberthur and VHP. We are very excited by this new acquisition which will furthermore consolidate Oberthur Fiduciaire’s position as one of the largest and fastest growing banknote printers in the world”, comments Thomas Savare.

Security printers work in a very sensitive business that affects interests of states and billions of people. It is not easy to be one of the leaders of this market, but it is an honorable duty. After all, we can’t do without cash.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Emma Miller .

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