Swift at 40: James Willis
To mark Swift’s 40th Birthday, Banking Technology is publishing a series of interviews with staffers looking back over how the organisation has changed during their time there, and where they see it developing in the future.
Today: James Wills: senior business manager, banking initiatives/standards
When did you join Swift? In what role?
2006, as head of Trade Standards
How did you see the organisation and how has it changed during your time there?
Everyone was very smart and at the top of their game. The focus was on the customer and how we could do better as a cooperative. Today we are more diversified (thanks to the young grads) but the customer has remained the primary focus.
What has been your biggest success while at Swift?
The TSU is now gaining traction due to the BPO. It has been a long haul and there is still a long way to go. I am especially proud of the role we are playing in Canada with their payment system. It took four years of dedicated effort to get there. E-Statements proved that a product could come from the regions (lots of effort by a team led by Stacy Rosenthal). The new emphasis on compliance is a big step forward.
Since your time at Swift, is there anything you would have changed?
The on-going success of Swift in good and bad times is a testament to a thoughtful and conservative strategy. I wish there were a way to move a bit faster in responding to the market but I accept our need to be overly cautious because of the trust the financial community has placed in Swift.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the financial industry now? Does Swift have a role in addressing that?
There are many challenges so it is hard to pick one. Regulation dominates as never before. Swift can play an important role in assisting our members with their compliance needs. We must be prepared to act sooner as the industry is challenged by a myriad of ever increasing requirements.
Should there be boundaries to Swift’s role?
There are very clear boundaries. We are a cooperative that must benefit the whole on a pari passu basis. We must constantly be aware of where our members’ competitive space begins and where our cooperative space ends.
Any particular personal memories you want to share?
I have been around Swift almost from the very beginning. First as a banker when STP allowed us to rapidly increase volumes and services to the growth into new areas (securities and corporates). I had always admired Swift and its staff; joining did not disappoint.
Where do you see Swift in the next 40 years?
As a singular, successful enterprise, the competitive playing field will only intensify. Just as voice became commoditised and virtually free, the same will happen to data. Swift will continue to add value added services to the network. There will be new technologies which will lead the way.