The annual SWIFT Standards Release is a remarkable animal. Generally speaking, the financial industry does not like to be told what to do; we hire expensive lawyers to lobby against proposed regulations; we refuse to adopt new and technically superior standards
unless they are forced upon us; and yet like a bunch of lemmings we all go through the pain of the SWIFT release without question.
Each year on the Monday after the third weekend of November most of the financial services industry breathes a collective sigh of relief at the end of another long slog of testing related to the release. It’s a permanent fixture in the list of BAU projects
at just about every bank, but despite the fact that most organizations have a fairly robust and mature process for managing change it never seems to get any easier.
Why so many changes? Why do we have to go through this every year? These are questions I hear all the time. Well, dear reader, sorry to be the one to break it to you, but it is YOU that is requesting these changes. It is YOU that is approving these changes.
The Annual SWIFT Release is indeed a Demon Of Our Own Design.
No sooner than we get done with SR2013 the 2014 ball is already rolling. Judging by the High Level Information recently published by SWIFT (see note 1 below) the 2014 release is going to be a whopper. There are 67 Change Requests (CR) in total. Each is
classified with one of seven impact levels ranging from “little or no impact” to “brand new message”. The 67 changes are broken down as follows:
- 9 “Level 1” changes. No impact. Essentially just a change to the documentation.
- 39 “Level 2-“ changes. Slight impact. New or deleted field formats, qualifiers or codes.
- 19 “Level 2+” changes. Serious impact. New or deleted fields and sequences.
Doesn’t sound so bad, huh? However, a deeper dive tells a very different story. Many (most actually) CRs affect multiple message types; for example, one change is applied to 26 different message types! Conversely, many message types are impacted by multiple
CRs with the prize for the most changes to a single message, 19(!), going to the good old MT564, already one of the most complex messages.
Ignoring the Level 1 changes the number of actual changes in this years release is 265 spread across 63 message types. Yikes!!!
Worse, the mix between Level 2- and Level 2+ shifts dramatically to almost 50/50 with 130 serious changes. Double Yikes!!
Delay the analysis and planning at your peril. The 2014 User Handbook will be published in a few weeks; I recommend you get started right away.
In my next blog I will discuss some tips and tricks, and other things-to-think-about to help you on your way.