Interbank payments co-operative Swift is calling on shareholders to approve a new access model that would make it easier for corporate participants to join the network.
The Swift board approved the new model for corporate access at its March meeting. Shareholder approval is now required at the June AGM to push through the proposal.
Corporates have had access to Swift since 1988 via Treasury Counterparty and Member Administered Closed User Group (MA-CUG) models. Although these bank-sponsored payment gateways have so far been deployed by over 100 banks, and joined by over 120 corporate users, they have been criticised by the large corporate community for preserving a restrictive, proprietary relationship.
But with multinational corporations increasingly threatening to seek out alternative solutions that could sideline their banking relationships, Swift and its largest members have been forced to tackle the issue head on. Swift describes the new Corporate Participant category as an "important evolution that will make it easier to connect to Swift, enjoy better standardisation and interact with multiple banks".
Julie Monaco, core cash management executive, JPMorgan Chase, welcomes the initiative: "Connecting corporates to the Swift network will now be significantly easier. Financial institutions will benefit by reducing customisation in their proprietary gateway infrastructure and by redirecting resources to the development of new value-added services."
Under the model, corporate entities listed on selected stock exchanges can join as participants in a new closed user group and interact with participating banks of their choice.
Corporate-to-financial institution SwiftNet messaging and file transfer are supported. Corporate-to-corporate traffic will not be permissable and value-added services, such as cash management or trade services, will remain the remit of financial institutions which will develop, market and support their own solutions.
Jean-Jacques Dufresne, deputy head of cash management, Société Générale, and a member of the Coporate Access Group formed by Swift to advise the board on the issue, comments: "The new model will address several key corporates' requirements. It is an important step forward for connecting corporates. SWIFT should however keep working on making it easier for corporates to join, for example through simplification of on-boarding processes and harmonisation of contracts."