Thursday, October 12, 2006

How much should corporates buy into SWIFT?

SWIFT is looking pretty pleased with itself these days when it comes to the number of corporates it now has on its network. There are approximately 168 corporates connected to the SWIFT network, with major multinationals such as GE, Microsoft and IBM signing up for the SWIFT experience.

GE for example has replaced its 40 EDI connections with multiple closed user groups (CUGs) in an effort to standardise its connectivity with its global banks. But not everyone believes that GE's complete buy-in to SWIFT is the way forward. "GE's infrastructure buy-in to SWIFT is nuts," says Joe Mazzetti, executive vice president, Fundtech, adding that he doesn't see other companies rushing to do the same as they don't really want to know the ins and outs of SWIFT to the same extent that GE does.

Yet, whilst SWIFT may be satisfied with 168 corporates (or the Top 200 corporates which SWIFT CEO Leonard Schrank has alluded to), it is really a drop in the ocean when you consider how many corporates are out there. Also, what about smaller to mid-sized corporates that see Closed User Groups as too expensive and are precluded from participating in the 'exclusive' corporate participant category?

"SWIFT still has to get more corporates signed on," says Karen Cone, CEO of TowerGroup. "They should be more aggressive in the corporate space. The percentage of corporates signed on is still tiny."

The unspoken thing that nobody seems to be talking about - only in hushed whispers in corridors - is granting corporates direct connectivity with one another via SWIFT, without the need for an intermediary bank.

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