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Writing the Next Chapter of the SWIFT Story

As banks and corporations complete their final preparations for this year’s Sibos event in Geneva, Helen Sanders, Editor talks to Tom Durkin, who manages digital channels on behalf of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, about some of the issues in which both SWIFT and participating banks are engaged.

SWIFT for Corporates has now been available for a number of years. Why is the bank particularly focusing on it now?

Although SWIFT for corporates is well-established as a concept, we have seen considerable change over the past three years or so. At that point, when there was a general trend amongst banks to prioritise proprietary solutions, I think some corporations – and certainly banks – were surprised by how bullish Bank of America Merrill Lynch was in supporting bank-neutral connectivity. Multinational, multi-banked corporations were amongst the early adopters of SWIFT, recognising the value of a single platform to achieve their centralisation, standardisation, liquidity and risk management objectives. Since then, we have seen a notable change in both bank and corporate attitudes towards SWIFT, with growing corporate demand for open, bank-neutral, innovative connectivity, leading to greater support too amongst banks.

It is not only the increased adoption of SWIFT that is so timely, but also the changing connectivity demands amongst established corporate users of SWIFT. Companies that have already adopted SWIFT are now focused on leveraging their SWIFT connection to optimise the security of transactions and information, and harnessing data to achieve automated processes and more sophisticated analytics. Integration with the corporation’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution and/ or treasury management system (TMS) is key to achieving these objectives, so this has become a key element of the corporate-to-bank dialogue, whether a company connects to its bank(s) via SWIFT or other methods.

We are currently seeing considerable technology and solution innovation in areas such as transaction banking. How is this being manifested in the SWIFT network and services?

As the level and speed of innovation increases, in part due to the emergence of new fintech solutions and new technologies such as blockchain, an important discussion is how the SWIFT network will evolve to incorporate new technologies, capabilities and ways of doing business. In this context, we saw the launch of SWIFT 3.0 at Sibos last year, and there are a number of crucial new developments moving forward quickly this year, such as the global payments innovation initiative, of which we expect to hear a great deal at this year’s event. Central to this initiative is to accelerate cross-border flows, improve corporate visibility over these flows and provide better auditability of fees. Fundamentally, the dynamics of how cash flows between financial counterparties are changing, which has implications for SWIFT, banks and corporations alike.