Every year the SWIFT International Banking Operations Seminar (Sibos) attracts the largest names in the global financial industry to learn about and discuss the latest developments affecting the very backbone of their industry. This year around 6,000 executives from areas such as payments and clearing, international cash management, custodian services, trade finance, financial markets and application providers have gathered in San Francisco to contribute towards the future direction of SWIFT.
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) has been delivering secure network and secure messaging standards for 25 years. It is an industry-owned co-operative and in addition to its 2,263 member banks, SWIFT users include sub-members and participants such as brokers, investment managers, securities depositories and clearing organizations, and stock exchanges.
But even with this long history and solid reputation, SWIFT- as well as its members - face many challenges posed by the pace of technological change and increasing convergence between large corporations, financial service institutions and even start-up initiatives.
Key areas being addressed at the conference are e-banking and internet-enabling financial software; the quest for straight through processing in all areas of the financial industry; and how to deal with the proliferation of protocols and ‘standards’ that clutter the technology side of the financial industry worldwide.
Too swift for some
Jaap Kamp - SWIFT’s chairman of the board - said during his opening plenary speech that SWIFT and its members must focus on using the assets already available to them rather than investing in competing ventures. “We cannot develop too many flavours of the same solution. We should use SWIFT's infrastructure to bring many of these initiatives together,” he said.
Kamp stressed that the SWIFT board is mindful of the culture change that will be required to keep on the cutting edge of technology and business developments, but pointed out that SWIFT has a good track record in delivering first class products and services to its members and customers and has achieved quite a lot in this regard in the past year.
Many of the sessions at Sibos are aimed at educating member institutions how to get the best out of SWIFT’s latest products. A number of these products have already been unveiled this year-SWIFTNet InterAct, SWIFTNet FileAct, SWIFTAlliance WebStation, SWIFTAlliance Gateway and SWIFTNet Link But there are also products and changes slated for the near future that require consideration by financial institutions now. One of these is the new SWIFT securities message protocol based on the ISO 15022 standard, which is scheduled to go live end-2001.
Any trade show has its share of announcements, and so far Sibos 2000 has been no exception. One of the biggest is the announcement of a strategic partnership between SWIFT and Identrus, a provider of identity trust for global business-to-business internet commerce. A joint solution that the two groups have been working on for the last few months will combine Identrus’ certificate authentication services with SWIFT’s global messaging standard.
Another significant announcement was made on Sanwa Bank’s intent to become an early adopter of SWIFTNet, agreeing to use the services for payment clearing and also promote them to other Japanese banks.
But most of the announcements have come from the crowded exhibition floor, where many of the new products and latest versions of applications on display have had internet capabilities incorporated, or are now completely internet based. There is a good mix of established companies and relative newcomers offering services from cash settlement to loan accounting and many vendors have announced new integration capabilities with other applications and messaging standards. Many more new partnership announcements will no doubt result from the networking opportunities that accompany a conference and exhibition of this kind.
Sibos continues at the Moscone Center in San Francisco until September 15th.