Swift’s Chris Church: making plans for Sibos
As delegates finalise their plans to attend Sibos in Boston this month, Chris Church, chief executive Americas and global head of securities at Swift, discusses what they can expect
What are the main themes at this year’s Sibos?
For Sibos 2014, we’re not focusing so much on themes as we are topics, but regulation is still top of mind for most, if not all, of the Sibos community. I’d say the big difference compared to previous years, particularly around regulation, is that a few years ago we were discussing potential regulations, the implications and what it meant to be a financial institution in the ‘new normal’. Fast forward four years and we’ve now moved beyond the theoretical discussions to the practical implementation of certain regulations.
Compliance with Anti-Money Laundering and Know Your Customer obligations are good examples as those requirements pose a real and growing challenge for banks across the world – particularly those engaged in cross border business, which is a large number of Sibos attendees.
As with last year and previous Sibos events, regulation and compliance will dominate much of the discussion. Other topics that were not as prevalent in 2010, but have increased in visibility over the last few years include cyber security, crypto currencies, big data, mobile and digital banking trends to name a few. It is interesting to see some of these topics move from the smaller community or auditorium sessions to the main stream of Sibos. Innovation will play a big role again in Sibos this year. In addition to the innovation stream led by Swift’s Innotribe group, we have also woven innovation themes into some of the mainstream conference sessions, such as the Investment Managers Forum, which we will be holding this year.
What are the main issues of interest and concern that Swift is hearing from its bank partners, customers and the industry?
A common and recurring theme we hear from our customers time and time again is related to costs and risks. Financial institutions, in particular, are under a tremendous amount of pressure. The complexity of doing business in financial services, combined with trying to maintain the competitive edge while complying with regulations and protecting against new threats such as cyber security and sanctions, is daunting and stressful. Where do financial institutions focus their IT investments? Does it go towards new technologies that support data and network protection or towards more innovative technologies that could increase operational efficiencies, enable compliance with new regulations and generally reduce the cost of doing business?
These are complicated and challenging times for everyone in our industry, which is why we focus many of our sessions at Sibos on compliance, collaboration, innovation and new technologies. By creating a forum for the industry to openly discuss their common challenges, we can work together to find common solutions that will help alleviate a lot of this pressure.
Is there any particular reason Boston was chosen? Is it because Swift is seeking to grow its footprint in the US market?
Boston is a great selection for Sibos. It has a great conference centre large enough to cater to the largest financial services event of its kind. The city also boasts a great transportation system that makes it easy to reach the location for the delegates that travel across the globe to attend Sibos each year.
Boston does have a high concentration of investment managers and for that reason we are running a one day forum dedicated solely to issues impacting the investment management community. The idea is to bring the investment management community around the table to discuss challenges they are facing and listen for some common threads.
Sibos is a great forum to better understand some of the common challenges and see how Swift can help alleviate some of the pressures facing that community as well as others. We have the Corporates Forum and Market Infrastructures Forum. Boston is also a good location to attract corporates in the US, which is a growth area for Swift globally. As with the investment management community, Sibos is a great event to bring corporates and banks together to discuss areas of concern and pain points. The Market Infrastructure Forum, like the other forums, will feature high profile speakers sharing their views on some of the biggest challenges facing that market. It will be interesting to hear what’s on the minds of leading figures, such as Michael Bodson from DTCC and Christine Cummings from The Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
What about globally? Where is Swift expanding and growing?
In terms of growth, Swift has a good footprint in the US market and globally – we’ve 10,500 customers across 215 countries with an average of 22 million messages running across our network every day, but there is always room for growth.
We see a lot of opportunity for Swift globally in the areas of corporate treasury, financial crime compliance, reference data and business intelligence as well as growing our core messaging platform.
Regulatory compliance is a big issue for our customers around the world, for example, and we are now able to offer services which help financial institutions manage issues such as screening against sanctioned entities.
In the Americas specifically, there is a lot of opportunity for us to grow existing services in emerging markets, such as Latin America. In May 2014 we opened a sales office in Mexico City to complement our office in Brazil. As those markets continue to grow and look to standardise and automate certain processes, Swift has a big role to play in helping those markets achieve greater efficiency at reduced cost.
Beyond the Americas, Swift sees a lot of growth potential in Asia. We’ve launched a joint venture in India with nine leading Indian banks creating Swift India and are now live with our new Kuala Lumpur Corporates Services Hub. As a neutral global infrastructure, Swift is well-positioned to partner with diverse regional and national institutions and market infrastructures across the world.
What developments will be highlighted at Sibos this year? What new ideas and success stories can we expect to encounter this year?
Industry collaboration is something that will definitely be highlighted. There has been a great effort among financial institutions to jointly develop solutions to solve common challenges. Compliance with KYC requirements is a good example of that effort. The collaboration discussion was prevalent at Sibos 2013 in Dubai, and I think it will dominate again in Boston.
Bitcoin, virtual currencies and the emergence of cryptographic networks, like Ripple, will be of interest, but also emerging currencies, such as the Renminbi and its impact on the US dollar and euro and trade in general. Right now, the RMB is the seventh most active currency for payments worldwide. Where will it go?
For new ideas, it always interesting to see what comes out of the Innotribe sessions. There are some really great discussions focused on new technologies. Much of the bitcoin/crypto currency debate will happen in that Forum. We’ll also crown the 2014 Innotribe Startup winner and many of the companies in that competition have interesting new technologies focused on bitcoin, cyber security, cash management, person to person payments, etc.
Bill Gates is giving the closing address and will provide his insights on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s work to bring financial services to the poor, which should be a good session.
We have a fantastic programme and a great line up of speakers and attendees from across the spectrum – banking, securities, corporates, and compliance. We are very excited for Sibos 2014 and look forward to welcoming the more than 7,000 delegates that will converge on the City of Boston at the end of September.