How the SWIFT System Works

SWIFT for Electronic Funds Transfers

need to transfer money oversea ? today, it is easily to walk into a bank and transfer money anywhere around the globe, but how does this happen ? Behind most international money and security transfers is the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications ( SWIFT ) system. SWIFT is a huge message network banks and other fiscal institutions use to promptly, accurately, and securely send and receive data, such as money transfer instructions .

More than 11,000 global SWIFT member institutions sent an average of 42 million messages per day through the net in 2021, marking an increase of 11.4 % over 2020.

In this article, we explore what SWIFT does, how it works, and how it makes money .

Key Takeaways

  • Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) is a member-owned cooperative that provides safe and secure financial transactions for its members. 
  • This payment network allows individuals and businesses to take electronic or card payments even if the customer or vendor uses a different bank than the payee.
  • SWIFT works by assigning each member institution a unique ID code that identifies not only the bank name but the country, city, and branch.

Inside a SWIFT transaction

SWIFT is a message network that fiscal institutions use to securely transmit data and instructions through a standardize system of codes. Although SWIFT has become a crucial part of ball-shaped fiscal infrastructure, it is not a fiscal institution itself : western fence lizard does not hold or transfer assets. rather, its utility lies in its might to facilitate batten, efficient communication between extremity institutions .

SWIFT assigns each fiscal organization a unique code that has either eight characters or 11 characters. The code is interchangeably called the depository financial institution identifier code ( BIC ), SWIFT code, SWIFT ID, or ISO 9362 code. To understand how the code is assigned, let ’ s front at italian bank UniCredit Banca, headquartered in Milan. It has the eight-character SWIFT code UNCRITMM .

  • First four characters: the institute code (UNCR for UniCredit Banca)
  • Next two characters: the country code (IT for the country Italy)
  • Next two characters: the location/city code (MM for Milan)
  • Last three characters: optional, but organizations use them to assign codes to individual branches.

Let ‘s assume a Bank of America Corp. ( BAC ) branch customer in New York wants to send money to their friend who banks at the UniCredit Banca branch in Venice. The New York customer can walk into their Bank of America branch with their acquaintance ’ randomness history count and UniCredit Banca ’ s unique SWIFT code for its Venice branch .

Bank of America will send a requital transfer SWIFT message to the UniCredit Banca outgrowth over the procure SWIFT network. When Unicredit Banca receives the SWIFT message about the incoming payment, it will clear and recognition the money to the italian acquaintance ’ sulfur report .

arsenic herculean as SWIFT is, keep in mind that it is entirely a message system. SWIFT does not hold any funds or securities, nor does it manage client accounts .

The World Before SWIFT

anterior to SWIFT, telex was the only available means of message confirmation for international funds transfer. Telex was hampered by low focal ratio, security concerns, and a loose message format. In other words, Telex did not have a coordinated system of codes like SWIFT to name banks and identify transactions. Telex senders had to describe every transaction in sentences that were then interpreted and executed by the telephone receiver. This led to many homo errors, equally well as slower serve times .

To circumvent these problems, the SWIFT system was formed in 1973. Six major international banks formed a accommodative society to operate a ball-shaped network that would transfer fiscal messages in a fasten and timely manner .

Why Is SWIFT Dominant ?

According to the London School of Economics, “ support for a shared network … began to achieve institutional shape … in the late 1960s, when the Société Financière Européenne ( SFE, a consortium of six major banks based in Luxembourg and Paris ), initiated a ‘ message-switching undertaking. ‘ ”

SWIFT was then founded in 1973 with 239 banks in 15 countries. By 1977, it expanded to 518 institutions in 22 countries. In 2022, there were more than 11,000 institutional members hailing from more than 200 countries and territories .

Although there are other message services like Fedwire, Ripple, and Clearing House Interbank Payments System ( CHIPS ), SWIFT continues to retain its dominant allele situation in the commercialize. Its success may be attributed to how it continually adds new message codes to transmit different fiscal transactions and to the security of its platform .

Though SWIFT primarily started for simple payment instructions, it immediately sends messages for a wide variety show of actions, including security transactions, treasury transactions, craft transactions, and system transactions. In Swift ‘s latest reputation, from January 2022, data showed 44.5 % of SWIFT dealings is still for payment-based messages, while 50.6 % represents security system transactions, and the remaining traffic flows to Treasury, trade, and system transactions .

SWIFT ‘s global authority has led it to become a significant consideration in geopolitics. In 2012, the European Union sanctioned banks in Iran, disconnecting them from the SWIFT system. In February 2022, leaders in the U.S. and EU agreed to remove some banks in Russia from SWIFT.

Who Uses SWIFT ?

In the begin, SWIFT founders designed the network to facilitate communication about Treasury and analogous transactions merely. The robustness of the message format design allowed for the huge scalability through which SWIFT gradually expanded to provide services to the follow :

  • Banks
  • Brokerage institutes and trading houses
  • Securities dealers
  • Asset management companies
  • Clearinghouses
  • Depositories
  • Exchanges
  • Corporate business houses
  • Treasury market participants and service providers
  • Foreign exchange and money brokers

Services SWIFT Offers

The SWIFT arrangement offers many services that assist businesses and individuals to complete seamless and accurate business transactions. Some of the services offered are listed below .


swift connections enable access to a kind of applications, which include real-time direction matching for treasury and forex transactions, banking market infrastructure for processing requital instructions between banks, and securities marketplace infrastructure for processing clear and colonization instructions for payments, securities, forex, and derivatives transactions .

business intelligence

SWIFT has recently introduced dashboards and reporting utilities that enable its clients to get a moral force, real-time view of monitoring the messages, natural process, craft run, and report. The reports enable filtering based on region, country, message types, and refer parameters .

complaisance services

Aimed at services around fiscal crime conformity, SWIFT offers report and utilities for Know Your Customer ( KYC ), sanctions, and anti-money laundering ( AML ) .

Messaging, connectivity, and software solutions

The core of the SWIFT business resides in providing a batten, authentic, and scalable network for the smooth drift of messages. Through its respective messaging hub, software, and network connections, SWIFT offers multiple products and services that enable its end clients to send and receive transactional messages .

How Does SWIFT Make Money ?

SWIFT is a cooperative organization owned by its members. Members are categorized into classes based on share possession. All members pay a erstwhile connect fee plus annual support charges that vary by member classes .

SWIFT besides charges users for each message based on message type and duration. These charges besides vary depending upon the bank ’ sulfur usage book ; different charge tiers exist for banks that generate different volumes of messages .

In accession, SWIFT has launched extra services as described above. These are backed by the long history of data maintained by SWIFT. These include business intelligence, reference data, and conformity services and offer SWIFT other income streams .

Challenges for SWIFT

The majority of SWIFT clients process huge transactional volumes for which manual entrance of instructions is not practical. The need for the automation of SWIFT message creation, action, and infection is growing. however, this comes at a monetary value and increased operational disk overhead .

Although SWIFT has been successful in providing software for automation, that besides comes at a cost. SWIFT may need to tap into these problem areas for the majority of its customer nucleotide. Automated solutions within this space may bring in a new flow of income for SWIFT and keep clients engaged in the hanker run .

SWIFT and Sanctions

Because of their reliance on SWIFT to conduct fast, seamless, batten communication, countries around the world have an incentive to remain in good stand with the organization. SWIFT is oversee by central banks from Group of Ten ( G10 ) countries, but it is a inert organization operating for the profit of all of its members .

In holocene years, the possible use of SWIFT membership as a potential sanction against members has emerged multiple times. In 2012, for model, the European Union passed a sanction against Iran that compelled SWIFT to disconnect canonic iranian banks. And in 2022, leaders from the U.K., EU, U.S., and Canada announced selected banks in Russia would be disconnected from SWIFT over its invasion of Ukraine .

In a nutshell, what is SWIFT?

Behind most international money and security transfers is the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, known as the SWIFT system. SWIFT is a huge message network banks and early fiscal institutions use to promptly, accurately, and securely send and receive information, such as money transfer instructions.

Was Russia disconnected from SWIFT due to its invasion of Ukraine?

Yes. As of Feb. 28, 2022, the United States, EU, U.K., and Canada have agreed to enhance economic sanctions against Russia by removing choose russian banks from the SWIFT message system. Japan has announced it will do the lapp .

How important is SWIFT to global finance?

SWIFT has become a crucial separate of global fiscal infrastructure. More than 11,000 global SWIFT member institutions sent an average of 42 million messages per day through the network in 2021, marking an addition of 11.4 % over 2020.

The Bottom Line

SWIFT has retained its dominant position in the ball-shaped action of transactional messages. It has recently forayed into other areas, such as offering reporting utilities and data for business intelligence, which indicates its willingness to remain innovative. In the short- to midterm, SWIFT seems poised to continue dominating the market .

source :
Category : Finance

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