Swift sets course for collaborative compliance
Yawar Shah, Swift chairman, told the Sibos opening plenary that existing ventures such as the sanctions screening service introduced last year were a “toe in the water” and the consortium has “an ambitious roadmap” covering related areas including KYC and anti-money laundering.
He cautioned that such ventures would be on behalf of the member banks but “it is a tricky business for Swift – we can’t get between our banks and their regulators”, he said.
It is a natural progression for Swift and takes it into a third phase of its existence: initially set up to automate payments traffic, it then went on to build its position in securities, which now accounts for half of all Swift traffic. When it moved into the securities area, it had little experience of the industry, but learned as it went along. It is currently at the same stage of development in the compliance space.
Shah called on members to embrace the approach. “We need the support of our members to ensure we are true to our compass,” he said.
Shah had heavyweight support for the collaborative approach from the opening keynote speaker, Samir Assaf, group managing director and chief executive of HSBC Global Banking & Markets. As an industry “we have to make a fundamental change – where there is no competitive advantage we should seek to collaborate and create utilities”, Assaf said, adding that “there is a role for Swift for this”. KYC is an obvious example, but he also cited “the sourcing, cleaning and organising of market prices”.
Assaf said such an approach would be like Wikipedia: “more eyes and feedback will improve information quality”.
Collaboration will be central to continuing the restructuring of the industry post-crisis. “We are living through a time of great change and challenge but I have no doubt we will overcome it – because we have done it before,” he said. “We are competitors but we are also each other’s clients and together we can achieve so much more than we can apart.”
Gottfried Leibbrandt, Swift chief executive, said the “world is changing before our very eyes”, citing three pressures that are affecting the wider economy: the continuing shift East; the rapid move of countries in Africa and Asia to industrial societies, and the disruptive change of technologies that is driving change in all industries and leading to the rise of new financial models, such as the Bitcoin virtual currency.
At the same time, he said, Swift is “working hard to deliver the core services”. Speaking to Daily News at Sibos immediately after the plenary, Leibbrandt said there is a continual drive to update systems. A new data centre in Switzerland is now fully operational and the core FIN applications have been revised and have so far successfully processed 1.5 billion transactions.