A Quick Overview Of How SWIFT Works

Remote work options are expanding globally, allowing companies to build global teams. However, it’s easier to pay local employees than those located across the globe. The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is a tool that can help manage international payroll. 

The SWIFT banking system, despite its low profile, is a crucial tool in smoothing global money transfers and plays a vital role in international finance, as it facilitates the transfer of funds to destinations outside one’s home country.

Understanding SWIFT

SWIFT, a cooperative owned by 3,500 member institutions worldwide, is a slow messaging system. Its operations are overseen by G10 countries’ central banks, the European Central Bank, and the National Bank of Belgium. It operates a global payment network, allowing individuals and corporations to make or receive payments electronically or via card, significantly impacting the global finance infrastructure.

Before SWIFT, Telex was the only method for international wire transfers though it was characterised by low speed and security concerns. It also had no unified system of codes for banks and financial institutions, leading to human error and slower processing times. In 1973, 239 banks from 15 countries formed the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), headquartered in Belgium. 

Background and Revenue Generation

SWIFT replaced Telex technology in 1977 and became a reliable global partner for institutions worldwide. It now spans every continent, 200+ countries, and territories, serving over 11,000 institutions and facilitating $150 trillion in transactions annually. At the outset, the services included a messaging platform, a computer system for inspecting and sending messages, and a set of rules for messaging. The intention behind these rules is to enable individuals to comprehend and exchange information while ensuring unimpeded message transmission easily.

SWIFT generates revenue through annual membership fees and charges for secure messages used for financial transactions. Customers may incur additional fees when using SWIFT for money transfers. Transaction and FX fees may apply, with intermediary banks and your bank incurring fees. It’s important to consult with your bank and agree with the recipient on handling these fees before initiating a payment.

What Does SWIFT Do

SWIFT transfers enable banks to communicate more efficiently and convey payment information cross-borderly. Transaction information is saved in your Nostro or Vostro account, and each member institution is assigned a unique Bank Identifier Code (BIC) for efficient identification. SWIFT offers a range of services to streamline and authenticate business transactions.

SWIFT offers a secure and scalable network for exchanging financial messages, including messaging hubs, software, and network connections. It facilitates global financial communications with efficiency and reliability. SWIFT’s network provides various applications for transactional needs, including real-time matching for treasury and Forex transactions, interbank payment processing, and securities market infrastructure for clearing and settlement instructions.

SWIFT has introduced business intelligence dashboards and reporting tools for real-time monitoring and customisable reports based on specific criteria. Additionally, the company provides compliance services for financial crime, including KYC procedures, sanctions, and AML measures, to ensure transaction legality on the SWIFT network.

Some Major Issues SWIFT Faces

SWIFT, a major player in the international financial system, faces several significant issues. Online security risks are a notable concern, with sensitive data and money being a prime target for online criminals. 

A weakness in the login process allows criminals to make transactions without extra checks, leading to huge losses. 

SWIFT expects banks to control access to its system, but it faces difficulty accommodating increased automation due to its older technology. Additionally, setting up secure connections between a customer’s system and the SWIFT network can be time-consuming and expensive, as each connection is unique and can fail if one part fails.

Blockchain technology offers SWIFT challenges with enhanced security, improved visibility, and efficiency, enabling direct communication between banks and reducing costs and compliance complexities.

Bottom Line

Blockchain technology offers new opportunities to improve the global interbank banking system, potentially replacing SWIFT but enhancing efficiency, security, and cost-effectiveness. As an exciting new era in finance begins, staying educated and involved is crucial.


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