Behind the Figures: A Practical View of SWIFTNet
by Brian Weekes, Head of Banking Services, PacNet Services
PacNet Services was founded in 1994 by an international team of banking experts in Vancouver, Canada. The company received instant recognition as the world’s leading processor of foreign currency cheques.
For the past 14 years, PacNet Services has maintained an average growth rate of 20% or higher. PacNet’s global staff, now numbering close to 120 people, are intensely loyal and dedicated to the business of its clients’ international success.
Today, PacNet Services is recognised for much more than processing foreign currency checks, it has developed a reputation for the provision of cutting edge electronic payment processing solutions around the globe. Companies from a wide variety of industries rely solely on PacNet Services to handle all of their international payment needs.
Through offices in Canada and Ireland, PacNet Services enjoys working with clients in North America, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and Australia, many of whom rely solely on PacNet to meet their payment processing needs both at home and abroad
Question how much freedom your path affords you. Be utterly ruthless about it. It’s your freedom that will get you to where you want to go.
Hugh MacLeod, How to be Creative, 11, 08.22.04
As a provider of payment services to clients globally, the ability to connect to SWIFTNet, historically the network through which banks communicate between themselves, presented substantial opportunities. Firstly, we saw SWIFT as a means of making payments more efficiently, and we would also be able to provide high quality, timely information to customers on the status of their payments together with balance and transaction reporting. We saw the potential to scale our business beyond what was possible using traditional electronic banking systems, and across more geographic locations.
One of the reasons for implementing SWIFT was to rationalise our vast array of EB systems by replacing these with a single 'pipe' to our banks.
Like many readers of this article, we had read a number of case studies and attended presentations by corporates which had implemented SWIFT, but we found it difficult to get beyond arbitrary return on investment (ROI) figures and see how their experiences applied to our own situation. In this article, we aim to provide a practical view of SWIFTNet and share our experiences and advice with other organisations contemplating the same path or who have already embarked upon it.
We had a variety of business challenges, many of which will be familiar to any international company with banking services in different locations. While we believed instinctively that SWIFT corporate access would be beneficial to PacNet, we recognised that by addressing some issues, others were created, which had to be taken into account during the project.
Multiple banking systems
PacNet has over 170 different bank relationships and more than 400 bank accounts globally. This has resulted in a multitude of electronic banking (EB) systems - currently, we have approximately 111. Maintaining these systems was becoming extremely difficult, as each has its own security requirements and access arrangements (smart cards, readers, digital certificates, secure ID tokens, remote devices etc.) User IDs, access rights and passwords had to be managed on each system, so with about 25 users on each system, and the occasional need to add or remove users, the administrative overhead was substantial. One of the reasons for implementing SWIFT was therefore to rationalise our vast array of EB systems by replacing these with a single ‘pipe’ to our banks.
Our main business is processing data for our customers’ consumer receivables worldwide, as well as processing the incoming payments/collections themselves. With each EB supporting a slightly different format, we had to deal with constant development requests to support different banks’ EB formats. SWIFT gave us the opportunity to receive and parse a common format for receivables from all our banks (MT940).