As Swift grapples with the fallout from a spate of recent attacks on bank websites, the messaging network's chief executive of the Americas and UK, Javier Perez-Tasso, has warned that the financial services industry is facing a defining moment in the fight for cybersecurity.
In the wake of the $81 million Bangladesh Bank hack details of more attacks on bank websites have emerged, with crooks attempting to steal huge sums of money through the Swift network.
Speaking at the Payments Panorama conference in Calgary, Perez-Tasso was at pains to emphasise that the Swift network itself has not been breached but was clear that the industry as a whole must act, talking up his organisation's hastily put together five-point security plan for members.
Perez-Tasso did not expand on the implications of the security programme for Swift's future business plans, although it is expected that the Brussels-based banking co-operative will pull back from its past expansionist strategy and adopt a more conservative outlook in the years ahead.
Elsewhere, the conference focused on the new wave of fintech innovation, with organiser the Canadian Payments Association getting in on the act by unveiling its new, pithier name, Payments Canada - although the bid to rebrand as a tech-savvy innovator was slightly undermined when the group's website fell over under the weight of interested visitors.
Daniel Eberhard, founder of Koho, a neobank entering private beta, was keen to stress that he came in peace, telling his audience of bankers that he is not in the game of trying to disrupt them and is only attempting to win over a very specific and fairly small part of the population.
Meanwhile, Interac CEO Mark O’Connell was in uncompromising mood. Noting Calgary's proximity to dinosaur-rich Drumheller, the debit network's chief insisted that the old financial giants are not about to go extinct, likening them to the sharks and crocodiles that have kept their place near the top of the food chain for many millions of years through gradual adaption.
At the other end of the evolutionary spectrum, five startups competed in the Fintech Cup, duking it out in four minute presentations for cash prizes. Taking the cup and C$20,000 was ZayZoon, a lending app which advances money to people and then automatically deducts funds from their accounts on their next payday. Runner up was Katipult, which provides crowdfunding software for private capital markets.
In the final session of the day, things got a little philosophical as panellists clashed on what role exactly a bank should play in their customers' lives. When the subject of money management and savings raised its head, Dave Mowat, CEO of ATB, floated the idea that a customer could ask a bank to not let them access money that was being put away for a specific goal.
This paternal concept of the bank, using its technology and data to guide and even force customers to act in their own interests, drew scorn from Equitable Bank's Andrew Moor, who questioned whether banks should interfere in how people spend their money. Even if that were desirable, Moor was clear that banks do not act in customers' best interests anyway, accusing them of mis-selling and other crooked behaviour.
The third member of the panel, Doug Steiner of Evree Corp offered a similar perspective, arguing that "there's no such thing as a good bank. If you're a perfectly good bank you'll not make any money".