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Setting the Standard for SWIFT Connectivity

by Ben Poole, Financial Journalist, with contributions from Marcus Treacher, Global Head of GTB Client Experience/GTB eChannels, Global Transaction Banking, HSBC and Ian Bryant, Head of Client Integration Consulting, HSBC

With a number of connection methods offered by a variety of institutions, SWIFT for Corporates is more accessible than ever. What are the main factors corporates should weigh up when considering SWIFT connectivity, and how can they best overcome the challenges of implementation?

Choosing a bank provider

As there is a standard method behind SWIFT for Corporates, which is defined by SWIFT themselves in their terms and conditions, the method itself is not the area that corporates should be concentrating on when thinking about implementation. Instead, value can be found by focusing on the quality of the bank the corporate is dealing with, and the ability of that bank to get SWIFT operating for them. A basic initial checklist should include questions such as:

  • Does the bank have good connection standards?
  • Does the bank cover standards such as XML ISO 20022?
  • Can the bank support the full range of SWIFT messages available to corporates via SWIFT connectivity?
  • Are there any gaps in the bank’s legal terms and conditions?
  • What kind of coverage does the bank provide?
  • What service quality does the bank have?

While large banks with a global footprint, such as HSBC, can provide positive answers to the above points, in the industry as a whole there are still many variables in this regard. This is why key industry players have been working on self-certification in an attempt to make things clearer for potential corporate clients. Marcus Treacher, Global Head of Client experience at HSBC, is Chairman of the Corporate Advisory Group at SWIFT. “We came up with a policy of certification, because we had corporates complaining that, depending on the bank they dealt with, they either had a full range of SWIFT services and implementation was good, or they had a very different experience,” Treacher explains. The Corporate Advisory Group responded by encouraging banks to self-certify at one of two levels. Level one certifies that the bank can do the basics, while level two covers the basics and also the bank’s ability to provide value added services. The corporate section of the SWIFT website lists the banks who have self-certified, and is a good reference point for treasurers.

Implementing SWIFT for Corporates

If a corporate decides to go directly through a bank to access SWIFT, how does the implementation process unfold? Taking HSBC as an example, Treacher notes that they start with the business problem that the corporate has, and then work with the client to create the best transaction banking solution to enable them to get where they need to. “In that thinking process, the decision on using SWIFT and then the method of connecting to SWIFT, comes quite a long way down in the thinking process,” says Treacher.