Financial messaging network Swift has outlined plans to build a business continuity service that will keep Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) systems operating in the event of a major outage.
The Market Infrastructure Resiliency Service (MIRS) is being developed following work Swift has carried out with several central banks on how business continuity of RTGS systems can be maintained in an extreme scenario such as the loss of all production sites.
Service specifications have already been hammered out between Swift and central banks and MIRS is slated to be completed by the second quarter of 2013. It will then undergo pilot testing with the Bank of England before becoming generally available in the fourth quarter of 2013.
MIRS will be a separate generic payment settlement system hosted at Swift. The Brussels-based co-operative will technically operate the service while central banks or payment market infrastructures will handle the business management from their Crisis Command Centres connected to Swift.
In the event of a problem the service will establish accurate starting liquidity positions at the time of failure, including the outstanding unprocessed payments held in Swift message queues. It will maintain the account structure and enable transfers across the books of the central bank and settle inter-bank payments and net settlements initiated by banks or ancillary systems.
The RTGS operator and participating banks will be able to monitor and control functionality through a user interface and the service will provide credit controls to prevent settlement banks going overdrawn at the central bank.
Toby Davies, head, market services division, BofE, says: "With twin operational sites, our current operation of RTGS - the UK's inter-bank high value payment system - is highly resilient but we have been looking for a strong and cost effective contingency solution in the improbable event of catastrophic failure. This reflects the Bank's commitment to the resilience of the UK financial infrastructure. In that unlikely scenario, MIRS would enable Chaps and other payments activity to continue to settle in central bank money throughout the business day."
Alain Raes, chief executive, Emea, Swift, adds: "MIRS will make a vital contribution to the safety of critical payments market infrastructures, and Swift is perfectly positioned to help our customers benefit from highly resilient business continuity services at a reasonable cost, thanks to our existing footprint in the payments world."