Russia pushes its Swift alternative

Russia pushes its Swift alternative

Russian authorities are promoting the international use of an alternative financial messaging system to the global Swift network in order to mitigate the risk of sanctions.

Earlier this week Russian lawmakers approved the use of the network beyond Russia's borders, building on talks held with China, India, Iran and Turkey.

"As the system has proved to be viable and efficient, it draws interest from both Russian and foreign players, it is proposed to give any legal entities, Russian and foreign, the possibility to use it," said Anatoly Aksakov, head of the Russian Banking Association and a member of a Russian parliamentary financial committee.

The proposed bill still needs to be ratified by president Vladimir Putin before becoming law  but is a sign of the growing push to promote the financial messaging system as a viable alternative to the global Swift network.

These efforts have been driven by the threat of sanctions. It was back oin 2014 that the plans for an alternative financial messaging system were hatched when financial sanctions were imposed on Russia in the wake of its efforts to annex the Crimea.

This action raised fears that Russia could be omitted from the Swift network as was the case for Iran in 2012. Russia's central bank governor has admitted as much, as has Aksakov who said that the substitute system "obviously allows us to solve issues related to the sanctions pressure". 

He also said that some 400 mostly Russian companies have so far expressed an interest in using the system while there is also growing interest from a number of countries in the Middle East.

Founded in 1973 and still run as a banking cooperative, Swift has remained as the global financial messaging network for international transactions. It is not the first time alternative payment systems have been developed. China established the Cross-border Interbank Payment System which launched in October 2015 as an alternative to Swift, although a memorandum of understanbding between the two systems was signed in May 2016. 

Swift and its efforts to impose sanctions now potentially faces a much bigger threat from cryptocurrencies and the use of crypto exchanges. Back in January 2018 an advisor to Putin, Sergei Glazyev suggested that the development of a 'cryptoruble' could help to alleviate any pressure from sanctions. 

Comments: (2)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 25 March, 2019, 05:30Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes Nice, well done.
Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 25 March, 2019, 14:29Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Even taking the date as 2015, I'm surprised it took so long for SWIFT alternatives to crop up. On a side note, IME, crypto *used* to be a threat to SWIFT but that threat is fast disappearing, largely because crypto companies are finding it increasingly difficult to open bank accounts in many countries (e.g. China, India), which contribute a good chunk of global cross-border money flows. 10 years ago, my US-based customers had two alternatives for making payments to my company in India: PayPal and Bank SWIFT Transfer. A couple of years ago, a couple of crypto companies approached me, saying they can offer another alternative. A few months later, they withdrew, citing inability to open bank accounts in India. I know there are many alternatives for P2P cross-border payments, but, 10 years later, we're left with exactly the same two alternatives for B2B payments in the USA-India corridor: PayPal and Bank SWIFT Transfer. I doubt if the situation is very different in the other major cross-border corridors (for, repeat, B2B, payments).