Swift CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt used his opening remarks at this year's Sibos in Sydney to talk up the adoption of Swift’s gpi, better information sharing and visibility around breaches reducing cyber risk, and Swift’s efforts to remain neutral in the face of volatile geopolitical situations.
Opening the plenary after an impressive light show, Swift chairman Yawar Shah said that the Swift board had endorsed universal adoption of gpi (global payments innovation), its initiative to become more "fintech-like" by increasing the speed, transparency and predictability of cross-border payments, by the end of 2020. Leibbrandt later reiterated this, and also announced that next month standard identifiers will be included in every Swift instruction so all payments become trackable.
In 2019 Swift plans to release a simple version of the gpi tracker available to all Swift connected banks. Banks not yet using gpi will be limited to accessing the tracker via Swift’s online portal - not via the API methods available to full gpi participants. And although final solution design is not completed, it is likely that non gpi banks will be limited in their view of the entire transaction chain.
In a separate announcement, backed up by later sessions in Swift’s dedicated gpi area at the conference centre, Swift has described the results of trials of cross-border instant payments using gpi, with gpi banks in Singapore, China and Thailand transmitting payments to Australian bank recipients via Australia’s NPP platform in as little as nine seconds.
Swift says that findings from the trial are now being used to finalise a new Swift gpi instant cross-border payments service, designed to scale and integrate with other real-time payment systems across the world.
Commenting on the pilot, Leibbrandt said that gpi is more than just tracking and speed, as it allows for new services and extensions to be built on top of it. Showing a screengrab of a Chinese bank’s mobile interface, incorporating the text “gpi”, he also said that had the co-operative realised banks would be putting gpi into their customer-facing applications they might have thought better about the name and gone for something sexier than gpi.
In the face of changing geopolitical tensions, including an emerging trade tariff war between the US and China, Leibbrandt also stressed the need for Swift and financial market infrastructure to remain apart, saying there is real opposition within the financial services industry to financial sanctions emerging from geopolitical conflict. “We have to remain neutral to maintain the integrity of global system,” he said.
Keeping the local flavour, Shah introduced ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott to the plenary audience. Among his candid admissions were that atoning for past sins and preparing for the future are both activities that should align for the Australian banking sector.
In the wake of Australia’s ongoing Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, he acknowledged that ANZ and other Australian banks have a lot of work to do. At same time they face the challenges of the sector worldwide, including digital transformation, cybersecurity and innovation.
“Dealing with issues of the past and future transformation is a challenge, but I reckon we can keep both aligned,” he said. Describing those challenges in more detail he outlined a future for ANZ that include it becoming a more vertical specialist.
“In the past the universal banking model was attractive, we would own and operate everything,” and aim to add more and more, he said. “But the cost of operations and regulatory compliance makes that less and less sensible for us. So this model is being thrown into doubt.” As a result, he said, the future for ANZ would be to do a few things and do them well.
By specialising in a few key areas in a world increasingly embracing open banking models, he expects banks’ ability to collaborate successfully in background operational areas - as evidenced by the existence of Swift - to move into the foreground. And this would include not only collaboration with other bank partners but established and emerging technology specialists.