Stephen Gilderdale, SWIFT’s Chief Platform Officer, explains how the co-operative is using new technologies to enable faster international payments and help improve the industry’s cybersecurity
SWIFT is unrecognisable from a decade ago. Back then we ran a financial messaging service delivering on industry-wide expectations on confidentiality, integrity and availability. As technologies have evolved, and the wider operating environment has changed, our customers and their customers have changed, and so we too have changed. Customers still expect SWIFT to deliver as a trusted platform, but now they expect much, much more.
In the cross-border space we are enabling our customers to perform faster, safer transfers; domestically we are building instant payment capabilities; and alongside this we are innovating fast, introducing new tools and capabilities to assist them – whether in scanning for fraud, detecting AML or CTF abuse, or in helping protect them against cyber-attacks. This expansion has necessitated decisive internal change and the adoption of a swathe of new technologies.
I have to ensure our core platform does more than just deliver on the principles and values we have been known for throughout the decades; it also has to be interactive, flexible and scalable. Not only that, but I have to ensure that what we develop – or co-develop – really works for all our community. The complexity in this lies in the plurality of our customer base – no longer just traditional financial institutions, but also corporates and fintechs. And beyond that, we also have to look at our customers’ customers.
In addressing these demands, our focus has to be as much on the way we deliver our products and services, as on what those products and services are; using the best technologies for each purpose to ensure we can deploy them how and when our customers want them. Using combinations of cloud, API, microservices and containerisation technologies we are able to develop much more accessible “simpler” solutions; furthermore, through iterative and agile development processes we are able to do so faster and better than before.
Nowhere is there so much change and opportunity as there is in payments. Safety, competition and speed, however, remain the watchwords. Safety, because technology (particularly networked technology) introduces cyber risk; competition, because technology can enable it (or, albeit unintentionally, preclude it); and speed because customers, and our customers’ customers expect it. SWIFT is delivering on all three fronts.
Safety in payments is paramount. While we continue to focus first and foremost on our own security, our Customer Security Programme (CSP) is designed to help our customers defend, detect and respond to cyber-attacks. The CSP includes a Security Controls Framework to give counterparties a level of confidence and transparency when doing business with each other, and an Information Sharing and Analysis Centre through which we share the very latest threat intelligence.
Competition is vital for any industry, and the payments sector is no exception. While competition should most directly benefit the consumers of any given product or services – it also benefits providers, by making them better! In the last several years developments in technology have attracted new contenders to enter the payments area, resulting in a vast amount of innovation. It has been very rewarding to be involved in this, but to ensure this competition works and remains sustainable, we now all need to ensure access, interoperability and standardisation across the piece. This is why we are working hard to enable the adoption of global standards like ISO 20022 and working to standardise APIs. These developments are absolutely fundamental to ensuring we have a vibrant, efficient, accessible payments ecosystem in the future.
Speed – and certainty – of payment is key. SWIFT has moved fast to dramatically speed up international payments through the global payments innovation (SWIFT gpi) initiative, which is already enabling hundreds of billions of cross-border payments within minutes, many even within seconds. In the domestic space we are not standing still either – delivering and offering connectivity to instant payments solutions around the world. And in short order we hope to connect these domestic systems through the gpi rails, to offer a near instant cross border payments experience.
Our message is straightforward: SWIFT is building upon its strong track record of integrity, safety and reliability, while dramatically speeding up payments and reducing complexity. We are acting in unison with our community to tackle the cyber threat and are embracing new technology to deliver the capabilities our customers want.
Stephen Gilderdale is Chief Platform Officer at SWIFT
Chief Platform Officer at SWIFT
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