More collaboration ahead, says Swift’s Leibbrandt
If Sibos delegates measure their years between the annual events, then Swift chief executive Gottfried Leibbrandt has just completed his first full year in office.
It’s been a busy year, and as he commented in his opening plenary, he’s “not going to get home early next year either”.
Front and centre of the agenda that Swift set out at the beginning of this week’s event is the concept of collaboration and cooperation – a perennial theme for Swift, but Leibbrandt told Daily News at Sibos there is a change in the air.
“The big difference between now and let’s say two years ago is where the big banks are in this,” he said. “Two years ago they were telling us to do something for the small banks, and maybe they would like some testing services. If you now look at where the big banks are, the challenge has grown exponentially. And they really are now looking at co-operative solutions. That, I think, is a seismic shift: it is time for co-operative solutions, and I will not claim that they are only looking to us – there was an announcement this week from HSBC, Morgan Stanley and Markit. DTCC has also announced an initiative, so I can’t claim that we are the only game in town. There is a real willingness to look for joint solutions, and we thinkthat we are well positioned in terms of skills and governance to address that.
Apart from this focus on enabling compliance, Liebbrandt said the organisation had two other important items on its agenda. “We’re busy: the second big thing is technology in general, investing in our infrastructure. We’ve just finished our new data centre in Switzerland, which was a big investment and is now fully operational, and we are completely redoing our core FIN application which processes 5 billion transactions a year. We have finished the first phase of that. Given how central that is to what we do it is quite a feat that Mike Fish, our CIO, is pulling off.”
The third area is geographical expansion, which iswhere Asia and Africa come in. “There too we are making significant investments, both at the governance level with new board members, and in the infrastructure,” he said. “We have new centres in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur for operations, and we have a joint venture in India connecting local markets in that part of the world. That will likely have local processing, which will let us be closer to the banks and build a community there. We can also connect to local infrastructures such as the RTGS systems and ACHs and provide a degree of resilience.”
It also addresses the issue of where data is stored and accessed, which he sees as one of the limitations of cloud technology. It also raises the issue of the story that surfaced at the start of this week’s Sibos, suggesting financial services systems including Swift and Visa had been hacked by US intelligence agencies. Leibbrandt is circumspect: “We take these things very seriously and we constantly have to up our game. In this particular case there is no evidence of any unauthorised access, but we constantly do risk analyses and we take any risk mitigation steps that we deem appropriate.”