Cash & Liquidity ManagementPaymentsSWIFTSwift: ‘We want to make everything as simple as local payments’

Swift: ‘We want to make everything as simple as local payments’

Marc Delbaere, Global Head of Corporates and Trade at Swift, talks to The Global Treasurer's editor, Austin Clark, about the progress of gpi and Swift’s drive to make payments better.

How is inbound payment tracking via gpi developing?

gpi is already transforming payments on a large scale. Its purpose is to improve the speed and transparency of international payments at scale.

Marc Delbaere, Global Head of Corporates and Trade at Swift

This approach has been hugely successful in that we have collaborated with the whole market and already moved over 3,500 banks to gpi, with more coming on stream. Over $300 billion is sent over gpi every day, across over 1,200 country corridors. On the corporate front, we have a reasonably large corporate community which consists of some the largest multinationals, and multi-banked corporates in the world

The gpi for Corporates programme focuses on how can we standardise and automate information flows through the tracking of the payments between banks and their corporate customers. So, how can we make sure the corporates would be able to have full visibility on the status of their payments in their corporate/treasury dashboards?

We embarked on finding a solution to this about a year and a half ago. After creating and piloting with banks and corporates, we released the pay and trace capability in June 2019, which enables corporates to track outgoing payments from their treasury systems.

We knew from the start was that this was only half of the story because payments are sent and payments are also received. The reason we launched the outgoing solution first was because we wanted to go to market and deliver a solution fast, and we released it one year from the first workshop, which our users appreciated.

Now it’s a question of effectively using the same community approach, including banks and corporates to continue to solve problems for corporate treasurers. What we are doing differently this time is including vendors from day one because we realise how important vendors are in the rollout of these solutions.

The next stage is providing visibility on incoming payments. Currently, when receiving a payment, you eagerly expect the money to hit your account and don’t see any money arrive, yet your customers are telling you, ‘sure, yes, the cheque is in the mail.’ By providing visibility to this process, you will effectively get full clarity on the receiving side of the payments as to where your payment is and when it will hit your account.

So you’re trying to remove the uncertainty and flexibility within payments?

Yes, exactly right. It’s all about being able to look into a payment from your own end without anyone having to do any work. This is straight through processing, automation and real-time flows of information.

In general, this is a positive development as corporates want to see where their payments are. However, when you dig into the real value, you realise that it is extremely useful for when problems crop up.

The idea is that if anything goes wrong along the chain, you’ll be able to immediately take action instead of having to wait to find out what the issue is. It might just require additional data from the payer, it might require a call to your bank, but then you would be able to be in control of solving the problem and probably save time.

The second big use case is value date payments e.g. two days ahead payments. With these, you will immediately be able to add the payments on your side and included in all of your liquidity provisions and forecasting because, for the most part, it’s as good as paid.

Is there a lot of interest in this because it’s a huge problem or because treasurers are getting used to using technology?

It’s an interesting question and I think it’s a mixture of both. Treasurers see it as a huge problem but also because they trust technology used in capabilities like gpi for corporates and so put time and energy into working with partners such as SWIFT to solve it.

At SWIFT, we use technology elements that have been rolled out already so that there’s even less uncertainty. Furthermore, a lot of the participants in the group were in a way already working together on the initial project, so there is already interpersonal trust in the group on top of that. This accelerates the project, it makes things easy, people know each other so we don’t spend two days at first trying to explain what everyone’s agenda is – there’s really no hidden agenda, we just want to solve this problem.

Is working with vendors from the start paying dividends?

Getting the vendors in early at the table prevents a lot of the questions which may come up later on because you just have people who can tell you straight up: ‘sure, that’s easy,’ or, ‘no, that’s hard’. When you have that at the onset, you are avoiding any kind of design mistake and you also build confidence as everyone sees there is a very efficient path to implementation.

What is the timeframe for rollout and additional features?

We expect to have solutions in test early next year, which will be followed shortly an early adopters phase extending capabilities to new participants, so we’re looking at very short timeframes here.

Are there any other features you’re looking to bring in?

We have opened the book of possibilities and so customers are coming to us with all kinds of suggestions and exciting ideas, ‘can you do this, can you do that?’ across the gpi portfolio. On gpi for corporates in particular, there is a lot of appetite for having API connectivity for the payment tracking notifications, which makes perfect sense.

Separately, we have a lot of innovation going on in the area of pre-validation; so we are focusing on what can be done to guarantee a smooth and controlled execution of payments by sharing as much information as possible.

Everything is improving and we are striving towards our goal of making cross-border payments as simple as domestic ones, and we want to do this at scale by collaborating with our community.

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