Financial messaging network Swift is looking to have as many as 60 corporate and banking customers in live production of the new Lite interface device by the end of the year.
The 'Alliance Lite' interface uses a standard Internet connection with a Swift-issued hardware security token, which can be provided on a USB memory stick. Once activated, corporate users can send payment instructions via Swift to their financial institutions in whatever format they want.
The formal launch of the product follows a six-month beta run with 20 pilot companies, comprising roughly 10 corporates and 10 low volume banks from the US and Europe. Feedback from the pilot - which addressed security issues, data entry re-keying and Swift terminology - has been incorporated into the live launch.
Alliance Lite is designed for companies sending and receiving up to 200 items a day and will be priced at a monthly flat fee of EUR850 for 4000 messages, or pay-as-you-go at EUR200 per month and EUR1 per transfer. The first release provides functionality for financial institutions and corporates: multibank payment initiation, cash reporting, and foreign exchange transactions. An alternative Lite interface device aimed at the fund management community is next on the production line.
Peter Vander Auwera, Alliance Lite project manager at Swift, says the Society is targetting 200 users per year. "We know that we have roughly 400 new customer coming onboard, mainly financial institutions and the majority of those are in this ball-park of low volume transactions. A number of them will go to a service bureau, a number will go direct, a number will go to Alliance Lite. You add some of the corporates that are joining and we'd expect total uptake of a couple of hundred per year."
The introduction of the new product has ruffled feathers among operators of Swift Service Bureaux and banks catering to the mid-market corporate sector, who fear that the co-operative may undermine their commercial offerings.
Vander Auwera counters: "We see a lot of banks that see Alliance Lite as a great way to extend their reach towards targetted end-users. We also have banks that are approaching us to discuss wholesale distribution models. So this isn't a generalised issue
"We have of course seen some specific cases where some of our clients feel that we may be getting into competitive territory, but as soon as we start looking in more detail they quickly see that their existing offerings are much richer, and they no longer feel so threatened."
And while Lite offers users immediate visibility and transparency of transaction flows, says Vander Auwera, Swift has also put in place a direct customer support programme that can deal with Lite-specific issues as they arise. As such, he says, the availability of the product need not impose any additional operational burdens on bank recipients.