For a Swift geek like me, the publication of the co-operative’s annual report offers a rare opportunity to gauge the mood of the executive committee and the board ahead of the annual user conference. Often this requires some educated guesswork, reading between
the lines and picking up on nuances in tone and emphasis in the opening messages from the chairman and CEO. Generally, the most interesting insights emerge from what is unsaid, rather than what is said.
So it was something of a surprise this year to pick up the 2008 report and find a rather sober - and remarkably frank - assessment of the state of the Swift universe in the opening statement from chairman Yawar Shah.
Referring to the global downturn and its likely impact on transaction volumes, Shah says: “Swift needs to prepare for the possibility of a period of significant volume contraction. The Board has therefore endorsed an initiative of the Leadership Council to
explore possible areas of cost reduction within Swift’s operations and consider potential actions in response to various scenarios, including sustained reduced volumes.”
One of the areas under examination is Swift’s investments in multiple market infrastructure projects.
Says Shah: “In times of growth, it makes sense to have multiple ventures addressing different aspects of industry concern. In time of retrenchment, we must examine where capabilities can be combined. Are there functions that Swift undertakes that other joint
ventures could do better?”
We've been here before of course. Anyone remember SwiftNetFIX? This effort to use the Swift network for point-to-point FIX messaging was quietly offloaded to Ullink after a five year investment programme that yielded precisely 11 clients.
So, will Swift look to shed itself of underperforming assets only? Or will it - as Shah implies - look dispassionately across its broad portfolio of services and cherry pick only those which can add immediate value to its core membership. By these criteria,
Swift's recent forays into the insurance industry, funds distribution, prime broker and hedge fund servicing and even the much-vaunted Trade Services Utility (a long-term investment with no guarantee of a successful outcome) could all be in the firing line.
At Sibos we’ll be looking closely at how these themes are played out in the opening plenary addresses and on the conference and exhibition floor. If you’re unable to attend in person this year, never fear, Finextra will be reporting live and direct from
the event via our purpose-built Sibos information resource
Finextra@Sibos. Bookmark it now, and guarantee yourself a virtual ringside seat in Hong Kong.