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Reflections on the Conference Season

An Interview with Marilyn Spearing, Global Head for Trade Finance & Cash Management Corporates, Deutsche Bank

This year’s major conferences, Sibos, EuroFinance in Barcelona and the AFP Annual Conference have coincided with some of the most historic events in financial history. To discuss the mood, themes and outcomes of the events, Helen Sanders, Editor, was delighted to interview Marilyn Spearing, Global Head for Trade Finance and Cash Management Corporates, Deutsche Bank.

This year’s Sibos saw the introduction of Alliance Lite (discussed more fully in the interview with Elie Lasker of SWIFT in this edition of TMI) and markedly higher corporate attendance compared with 2007. What do you see as the key trends in corporate connectivity in the coming year?

We see that corporates who work with a number of banks appreciate the ability to connect with their banks through SWIFT. This is reflected in the profile of most of the corporates who connect using SWIFT today and those expressing an interest for the future. SCORE now has over 350 corporate participants (many of whom pre-date SCORE itself, moving from earlier SWIFT connectivity models such as TR-CO and MA-CUGs) but this still reflects relatively slow uptake. We see the trend for SWIFT connectivity continuing to grow amongst multi-banked corporates, particularly large multinational corporates. Other corporates too, such as large domestic players and multinational corporations with fewer banks, are looking to understand the implications of SWIFT in their environment and whether the value of a bank-independent connectivity is sufficient. In many cases, companies are migrating to a lead banking provider in each region. Therefore, with fewer banks, SWIFT connectivity is not such an immediate requirement. Instead, the potential value of SWIFT is the opportunity for greater efficiency as part of an integrated environment including an ERP and/or TMS, so SWIFT connectivity is more likely to take place as part of a wider business change than as a specific project.

Corporates are increasingly satisfied with the quality of advice on SWIFT that they are receiving from their banks, but the varying complexity and time taken to negotiate documentation remains a prickly topic. Do you see a way that this can be resolved in the future?

I see this is a broader issue than simply documentation. It is still early days in the development of SWIFT corporate connectivity, particularly migrating the SWIFT model from bank-to-bank to bank-to-corporate connectivity. In particular, the introduction of a third party, namely SWIFT, into the relationship between banks and their corporate customers represents a fundamental change. It will take time to adapt, and documentation is just one element in that process.

A definite trend is to find ways to make SWIFT connectivity more straightforward for corporates, of which Alliance Lite is one example.