SWIFT Connectivity at HiFX Plc
by James Warner, Head of Business Change, HiFX
HiFX Plc was first founded in 1998 in the United Kingdom to provide foreign exchange and cash deposit services to corporations and private individuals. Since then, it has expanded its operations across Europe, North America and Australasia, supporting around 2,500 corporate clients across 100 different industry sectors and over 30,000 private individuals. In 2008, HiFX advised on and executed over £20bn in foreign exchange and placed over £3 billion of funds on behalf of clients. The company has featured for three consecutive years in the Virgin Atlantic Sunday Times Fast Track 100.
Expanding the Business
When we started the business in 1998, our transaction processing requirements were relatively straightforward and we were able to use the systems provided by our banks for online banking, payments, statement retrieval etc. Today, our customer base extends across a very wide spectrum, from private individuals through to large corporate clients. A large proportion of our clients are, however, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with currency requirements of around £10m equivalent each year. For this type of client in particular, a high quality, well-priced and efficiently managed foreign exchange service is critical to maintaining their business competitiveness.
As our volumes have grown and the complexity of the business has expanded, our processes and technology had become increasingly cumbersome and larger numbers of transactions had required manual intervention. This inevitably created resourcing and control issues. Over recent years, we have been through major changes to improve our internal processes and use of technology. There have been various elements of this project. We were using an old treasury management system (TMS) and there were a large number of manual tasks. As we grew, we needed to take on additional staff to take on these activities, which was costly and reduced control and visibility. We replaced our TMS package, selecting a bank system which we then modified according to our own business requirements.
We also recognised that enhancing bank connectivity was key to efficient transaction processing. The way we work is that a client contacts us by telephone to arrange a transaction with a dealer at HiFX; for example, if a UK client needs to make a Û1m payment to a supplier in Germany, the client sends us a payment in the sold currency and we arrange payment to the beneficiary using settlement instructions, which the client has provided to us online. All transactions are delivery versus payment, so the foreign currency payment is only made after we receive payment from the client. Consequently, everything we can do to accelerate notification of collections and beneficiary payments, the better the service we can provide. For example, a project imperative was to extend cut-off times so that the transaction window was as long as possible.