While SWIFT's core value to its community is in its messaging service, its products and services portfolio to support that has been evolving in recent years.
"The evolution in our products and services has had an impact on the types of partnerships that we are looking to invest in," says Filip Versluys, Head of SWIFT Partner Marketing. Essentially, SWIFT is looking to deepen its relationship with those firms it classifies as business partners, while creating a straightforward accreditation for other providers of products and services to the community.
"The new framework, which has been developed in close collaboration with our regional commercial teams, will result in greater simplicity and transparency for customers as well as enhanced market coverage," says Versluys. "It will now be easier for SWIFT customers to access both SWIFT and third-party products and services with the confidence that they conform to SWIFT's strict standards of service quality and operational excellence."
In a nutshell, the new framework covers SWIFT's strategic partnerships and business relationships with third party providers in three distinct categories: SWIFT Business Partners; the SWIFT Certified Programme; and Service Bureaus.
SWIFT Business Partners
The SWIFT Business Partner classification replaces the former designation of Regional Partner. Business Partners will represent SWIFT to the market with a broad set of SWIFT products and services and will also be responsible for account-managing subsets of customers in specific market regions.
A new partnership agreement is out in the market for review by potential and existing partners. "We are looking for our business partners to act as a true extension of our own commercial activities," says Versluys. "We want them to be the face of SWIFT and to represent us across our entire product and services portfolio." In order to be considered, SWIFT Business Partners must have already demonstrated their SWIFT knowledge and expertise through the SWIFT Certified Programme.
SWIFT Certified Programme
The SWIFT Certified Programme covers third-party applications, interfaces and speciallists. "Certification confirms that the products and services concerned comply with the relevant SWIFT quality and technical standards," says Versluys. The certifications, which are valid for one year, replace the existing 'SWIFTReady' labels.
Applications certifications are offered for various market segments, including payments, trade, securities and corporates. Interfaces certification validates that the third-party interface meets SWIFT connectivity needs and supports all relevant SWIFT messages and standards. SWIFT Certified Specialists will be confirmed for their expertise in specific areas, such as implementation, consultancy and on-boarding.
Unlike before, where gold, silver and bronze labels were awarded, the updated SWIFT certifications will not be tiered. "We've chosen to keep it clear and straightforward," says Versluys. "You're either providing a good quality application, compliant with all the requirements or you're not. Achieving certification demonstrates an important commitment to industry standards and evolving customer requirements."
For Service Bureaus, the new certification programme will validate compliance with a strict set of requirements covering legal, financial and operational considerations and ensuring enhanced connectivity and service for Service Bureau users. It will be subject to a strict due diligence process. "Demand for service bureau access to SWIFT has expanded significantly," says Versluys." "While they bring great value to certain parts of the community, we really want customers to be able to understand the specifics behind each offering and to be comfortable that all risk and compliance issues have been assessed."
Relationships within the new partner framework will be managed and developed by teams located in SWIFT regional offices in Europe, Asia and the Americas. The framework is targeted for implementation in 2013. Time scales for transition and specific details for implementation will be announced shortly.
As the programme is rolled out, SWIFT is keen to ensure that it remains relevant to customers' changing needs. "We want to engage with our end-users to ensure that our initiatives in the partner framework are directly relevant to their purchasing decisions," says Versluys, who welcomes feedback on the changes from end-users and the SWIFT community.