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SWIFT Connectivity at ABB Treasury

by Thomas Martin, Head of Operations & IT, ABB Group Treasury

ABB is a global leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve their performance while lowering environmental impact. ABB operates in more than 100 countries and has offices in 87 of those countries with 115,000 employees to give its global and local customers the support they need to develop and conduct their business successfully.

We recognised some time ago that accessing our banks via SWIFTNet would be beneficial to our business by replacing our systems with a single, secure channel.

Since 2002, ABB has had a highly centralised treasury function within a relatively decentralised company. Group Treasury is located in Zurich, Switzerland and we have regional treasury centres in the United States and Singapore. Our SWIFT connectivity project has initially been focused only on treasury payments (FIN - high value, urgent payments) rather than supplier/vendor payments, although this is a potential future development. Treasury payments are a crucial area for ABB, with over $300bn each year in payments originating from Group Treasury alone, plus payments initiated from our regional treasury centres.

Existing Payments Infrastructure

We currently use three proprietary e-banking solutions in Group Treasury, one of which is used on a multi-banking basis using MT101 forwarding. Our treasury management system (TMS), WallStreet Suite, produces different payment files that are then imported and approved within these payment systems. Although these applications adequately support our payment requirements, we wanted to implement a standardised approach to payment security. In reality, a company’s payment security is only as good as the weakest part in the payments process, which becomes more problematic when multiple systems are in place. We have been concerned that each of our e-banking solutions had different security tools. In addition, there is potentially a weak link between the file being released from our TMS and being uploaded into our e-banking systems where a file could be altered outside the security restrictions of the originating or receiving system.