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Are We There Yet? SWIFT Corporate Access 2010
by Helen Sanders, Editor
Starting this article has strong overtones of déjà vu for me. Every year, around this time, I write an article outlining the progress that has been made towards the adoption of SWIFTNet for bank connectivity by corporate users. Every year, we talk about how a new initiative, SCORE, Alliance Lite etc. will encourage new users. But nine years on from the launch of the MA-CUG (member-administered closed user group) model for corporate connectivity for SWIFT, and three years since SCORE (standardised corporate environment), it has become clear that while SWIFT connectivity has a valuable role to play, it complements rather than replaces existing connectivity tools. Furthermore, while connectivity is clearly a vital foundation to the bank-to-corporate relationship, it is only one factor in an efficient technology infrastructure and transaction and information flow.
Importance of connectivity
SIBOS, the annual conference organised by SWIFT, which this year takes place in Amsterdam in late October, attracts only a select number of potential or actual corporate users of SWIFT connectivity to the dedicated Corporate Forum. The fact that more corporates do not choose to attend is not, however, a reflection of lack of interest or lack of recognition of the importance of connectivity. Rather, as Neal Livingston, Managing Director and Global Head, Client Access, Standard Chartered Bank explains,
“For a sophisticated corporate, connectivity is not simply about sending information to a bank, but more about the overall process flow, such as auto-reconciliation and achieving real-time visibility of data. Consequently, we are seeing a subtle but important shift from an emphasis on corporate-to-bank connectivity to integration of the corporate financial supply chain.”
Corporate-to-bank connectivity is not a discrete objective, but part of a broader initiative to optimise flows both within and beyond the organisation. One of the outcomes of this is that few corporates engage specifically in connectivity projects, but typically it as one element in a wider project. Neal Livingston, Standard Chartered continues,
Alliance Lite enables smaller, less sophisticated organisations to take advantage of multi-bank connectivity through SWIFT without the need for up-front investment.
“Adoption of SWIFT connectivity is invariably part of a wider business project such as payables centralisation, an ERP or TMS upgrade, or a merger/acquisition. In reality, therefore, the timing of such a project is rarely driven by treasury, but opportunistic depending on other initiatives within the company.
Marie-Laurence Faure-Lepetit, Head of Marketing Channels Products at BNP Paribas concurs,
“SWIFT connectivity is typically part of a wider business initiative, such as establishing a payment factory or migration from local payment processing such as ISABEL in Belgium or ETEBAC in France.”
Glen Solimine, Head of Sales, Wallstreet Treasury, Wall Street Systems, identifies the same trend, but emphasises that as the services available through SWIFT evolve, its value to corporate users will make the proposition more compelling,
“The priority of bank connectivity will depend typically on the maturity of a company’s treasury infrastructure. When embarking on a new project, such as implementing or replacing a TMS, connectivity becomes key. In the case of companies with a well-established infrastructure that is already working well, reviewing and optimising connectivity is less of a priority. However, new initiatives such as eBAM are creating new opportunities and are likely to drive connectivity change. Having implemented SWIFT for one service, companies are likely to then seek to expand their use of the channel further.”