Banks of every size are keen to win and retain Corporate customers – nothing new here.
However, what is surprising to me is how many banks I think are missing a trick when it comes to realising opportunities to expand their Corporate portfolios by offering the easy access to bank services over SWIFT that many Corporates are demanding, especially
those which are multi-banked.
From conversations with a number of my Corporate customers, it seems they continue to be frustrated by the amount of time it takes them to work out which banks offer which services over SWIFT. It’s been a little while since SWIFT first launched the Bank
Readiness and Certification programme, but a very simple on-line tool is now freely available which allows Banks to promote their SWIFT service capabilities and Corporates for their part to review and determine the SWIFT capabilities of their various banks.
Yes, often the simple things are the best.
Back in 2010 a SWIFT survey highlighted the difficulties some corporates were having in determining the SWIFT messaging capabilities of their banks in specific countries around the world. The results of this survey also served as a clear call to action for
banks to extend the scope of their SWIFT offering towards corporate customers - one way to win and retain more business!
Here we are some 5 years later and whilst many of the larger banks have taken great strides forward, Corporates are still left wanting when it comes to establishing the SWIFT capabilities of many in-country banks, particularly across Asia, Africa and South
The opening up of the SWIFT network for Corporate-Bank communications has created many new opportunities for banks. Here’s why I think it is so important for every bank to help Corporates by actively promoting the range of services they can offer to Corporates
over SWIFT as part of their own market penetration strategy.
Many of the multi-banked Corporates that I deal with tell me one of their greatest challenges, when it comes to dealing with in-country banks, is the time it takes to obtain timely and reliable data which is needed for decision making purposes, one classic
example is in the area of end-of-day account statements.
It is not uncommon for some smaller banks to lack the level of technical sophistication that the larger- and global banks can afford. Yet these in-country banks are vital to the business of many Corporates who operate across the globe. Many Corporates
find the basic lack of automated reporting from some of their banks is impacting their business and they urgently need these banks to step up and improve their service offering in this area.
A very real scenario.
A large well known charitable organisation has a central treasury department which distributes over GBP500 million across the world to support people in need. Their resource teams are operational in 120 countries and many are deployed in remote locations
across all continents.
Their funding is totally reliant on donations and in order to meet the growing demands from their operational hot spots, particularly in areas of conflict, they have to be extremely efficient with their cash management activities, particularly as they have
to maximise funds that are impacted by volatile FX fluctuations. Every single pound counts! Knowing the money has reached those in need and identifying where any funds might be bottlenecked is extremely important information.
To ensure the efficient control and distribution of much needed funds, the central treasury need to know their end-of-day bank balances. You might think that if we can check our smartphones and get immediate access to our personal bank balance information
then surely Corporates can do the same?
In some cases, obtaining end-of-day balances from every bank is just not realistic. Some bank systems are automated, some send information by phone, email or, yes, some use faxes. Don’t even mention the concerns this raises about data accuracy and security.
But gathering data from 120 bank accounts in a variety of formats presents a real headache for their treasury department.
Automated data from large, mainstream, international banks is fine. But as we know the devil is in the detail and in order to have a clear picture across
all bank accounts at any given point of time, in this particular situation, it creates a very unnecessary workload and overhead that is hard to comprehend in our modern, high-tech financial services world.
Early in 2015, SWIFT simplified the rules governing Corporate-Bank messaging so that
any bank can now send SWIFT MT940 bank statements securely across the network direct to their corporate customers. This is of huge benefit to Corporates as it allows them to gain an accurate view of the balances (and transactional detail) for their various
accounts in a timely manner.
Previously banks had to be members of SCORE (a closed user group within SWIFT) to be able to use the SWIFT network to send statements to their corporate customers. With this latest relaxation of the rules, it means that a potential barrier to using SWIFT
for many banks was removed.
Of course, this all still assumes that banks have the ability to generate account reporting information in the correct format and deliver this over the SWIFT network to their Corporates. It also assumes that the Corporate can accept this data format, consolidate
it, and produce meaningful reports to share internally with decision makers. A challenge, but not one that is insurmountable and every day many more bank-to-corporate connections are being established.
For any banks and corporates struggling with this move towards automated end-of-day statement reporting, there are many solution providers that can help and bring the necessary SWIFT messaging expertise and experience.
As an industry we have to keep moving forward and doing our bit to smooth the way for businesses to operate efficiently and cost-effectively wherever their operations are located is imperative to growth. Banks continue to play a very important role and I
believe that there is much to be gained from considering SWIFT’s Bank Readiness and Certification Program as a route to opening up new business with Corporates.
I know many Corporates would benefit greatly from being able to use this central point of reference to identify much more quickly and accurately those banks that can provide the required SWIFT messaging services for them and to facilitate engagement with
those banks to do more business.
And for the banks, if SWIFT’s Bank Readiness and Certification Program provides a way for them to shout about their capabilities and put themselves in a position to engage with more corporate customers, then I would have thought that this should surely be