Sibos themes set in opening plenary

The opening plenary of Sibos explores the theme of raising ambitions.
The opening plenary at Sibos is always a highlight of the conference and this year is no exception. With the sounds of singer Peter AllenÆs ôI Still Call Australia Homeö brought to life by the Australian Girls Choir, delegates settled down to receive an overview of what to expect over the week in Sydney and how SWIFT planned to explore its 2006 theme of raising ambitions.

John Watkins, acting premier of New South Wales set the tone early, stressing that in order to be a truly global financial centre, Sydney has been forced to rely on the corporation to make itself one of AsiaÆs most visible financial centres and accelerate its ambition in competing with other markets around the region.

The theme was drummed home even more by David Morgan, chief executive officer of Westpac Banking Corporation, one of AustraliaÆs big four commercial banks. Using examples of WestpacÆs own development and growth in the country, Morgan quickly established that without raising the bar in the financial services industries, businesses like banks easily lose their competitive edge.

ôIt is not unique to be ambitious in the finance world and we do it every day,ö says Morgan. ôIf you want to live in a competitive environment, you really have no choice.ö

The thrust of MorganÆs speech, and its connection to SibosÆs 2006 theme, was generally related to the payments industry. Although Morgan cited the need for greater self-regulation and the cooperative combating of hackers in the payments space, it was his comments on missed opportunities by banks in this area that proved to be moist in-line with the theme.

According to Morgan, banks have ignored many opportunities in the payments world and as a result, have seen non-bank players move into this space with great success. Citing the success of TESCO and General Electric, which receive a far chunk of there revenues from their finance arms, Morgan confidently asserts that the banks needed to do more in terms of efficiency in order to attract back the business that rightfully belongs to the banks. To achieve this goal, he states that banks must work together to improve efficiencies, and more importantly, recognise the common importance of payments for bankÆs balance sheets.

ôBanks need to work together to develop innovative products and efficiencies, and only through collaborations on payments, will this area of our business improve,ö he says. ôIt is common sense for us to asset ourselves in front of a massive opportunity, and we must realise that non-traditional businesses taking payments is too important to ignore.ö

Following MorganÆs impassioned and popular speech, Yawar Shah, the new chairman of the SWIFT board and host of the plenary, explained what raising ambitions meant to his consortium of banks. Aside from documenting how message volumes have increased dramtically over the past few years, Shah also outlined how the company had responded to the board's challenge of doing more for alternative investments and the recent implementation of SWIFT for corporates as evidence of raising its game.

ôThere is no question that SWIFT has momentum and is bolder and more ambitious than it has ever been,ö he says. ôThe question is how we maintain our edge, which is being seen in the progress of the SWIFT2010 goals, offerings that are being made to financial institutions and SWIFTÆs goal of reducing fees by 50% over the next five years. The basic DNA of the company is very strong and we have issued challenges to SWIFT to raise the bar even further.ö

Among the challenges that Shah speaks of are to build even more reliable standards and expand on the network's strong governance structure.

ôWe want SWIFT to tackle the issues of the whole industry and that will require being bold,ö says Shah. "Again, it is time for SWIFT to accelerate the momentum and given that it is in excellent shape, we have every confidence they will do this successfully.ö

The final speaker at this yearÆs plenary was SWIFT chief executive officer Leonard Schrank, who used the opportunity to discuss the companyÆs recent performance and how it was progressing in its own ambitions of implementing its SWIFT2010 project.

ôThe state of the company is very good and all indicators of success are off the scale for SWIFT,ö he says. ôWe have seen our momentum building for a number of years now and our SWIFT2010 vision is deeper, richer and stronger than ever, which is being achieved through more cooperation between the community.ö

Aside from announcing a huge growth in messaging, which was marked on September 29 when the firm crossed the 13 million message per day mark, Schrank also announced that SWIFTÆs board has approved a rebate of 5%, in line with its strategy for more price reduction for members and users.

In order to achieve its future ambitions, Schrank also outlined a four-pronged plan to expand SWIFTÆs footprint in the coming years.

Firstly, the industry-owned company will look to expand its presence in emerging markets, working with national groups and developing relationships with central banks. This will include further personnel expansion in regional markets such as Beijing and Dubai and the possible opening off a Mumbai office in 2007.

Secondly, SWIFT will grow its corporate reach and expand on activities such as corporate-to-bank activity through strategic technology partnerships and on its trade services utility.

Thirdly, Schrank plans to attack issues in SWIFT's own backyard by aiding securities and payments integration in Europe. And finally, it plans to realise its ambitions in the securities and alternative investment space, while all the time turning to the SWIFT community for support.

All speakers were firm in their beliefs; the question now is how the industry will reacts to these ambitious goals.
¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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