Interbank payments network Swift is forecasting a rise in operating expenses of 10 percent in 2000. The Brussel's-based messaging provider is currently deploying its SwiftNet Internet Protocol (IP) messaging and network services, expanding its securities business and seeking a foothold in emerging e-commerce markets.
"Swift ended the 20th century in its strongest position ever," claims CEO Lenny Schrank. "We began the year with the euro changeover and ended it with Y2K. In between we delivered for CLS, launched bolero.net,and won the GSTPA bid."
To support increased output, Swift plans to recruit up to 300 staff, mainly in Belgium, representing a 20 percent increase in its global workforce.
Payments message volumes grew 10 percent in 1999, representing 63 percent of total message traffic. The development of same-day payment systems is generating demand for more frequent cash management reporting, says Swift. A trend reflected in the strong growth of messages for customer statements and interim transaction reports.
Securities is Swift's fastest growing market and second largest message category. Securities traffic expanded by 50 percent in 1999 to 224 million. For the first half of 2000, growth has surged to 74 percent.
In March, the Swift board moved to accept regulated broker/dealers and investment management institutions as full members. Swift expects nearly 600 of these existing customers to become shareholders by year end.
In 1999, the introduction of the euro resulted in a shift in payments flows in favour of clearing infrastructures, but led to a reduction in treasury activity, reports Swift. The contraction of the foreign exchange market following the euro's introduction contributed to a 17 percent decline in treasury message volumes.
Francis Vanbever, chief financial officer, Swift reports: "The increased pace of development in new services and products translated into a 15 percent rise in research and development expenses to EUR 74 million in 1999. Strong revenue growth (14 percent) resulted in an operating surplus of EUR 37 million and generated a EUR 13 million cashflow. This enables the company to finance investments from current cashflows."