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SOFE 2012 explores how operational challenges can be solved through greater collaboration

Over 320 delegates meet in Frankfurt to learn, share experience and discuss how greater collaboration on solutions can alleviate the burden of common operational challenges

Published on 12 Dec 2012

Opening the SWIFT Operations Forum Europe 2012 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Peter De Metsenaere, Head of EMEA Customer Support, SWIFT, welcomed the over 320 attendees and set out his ambitions for the two and a half day event. He explained that feedback from attendees at last year's SOFE had been taken into account when shaping this year's event and that the purpose of SOFE remains to learn, share and discuss as a well as for SWIFT to listen to its customers, find out more about their needs and ensure that we cater for them.

Following on from De Metsenaere's welcome, Francis Vanbever, Chief Financial Officer, SWIFT, addressed the audience and commented on how SOFE is now bigger than the first Sibos. He explained that SWIFT was created in 1973 to solve operational challenges through collaboration and that that is still what we are about today. "Our mission is to give you peace of mind," he told delegates, and went on to explain a number of the investments that have been made to completely overhaul our infrastructure and operating centres - including the construction of a new, state-of-the-art Operating Centre in Switzerland - and ensure that SWIFT's reliability and resiliency are always kept at the highest levels. Touching on some of the highlights from the Technology Stream at this year's Sibos in Osaka, where regulation, cybercrime and technology change were top of the agenda, Vanbever reiterated the message passed by SWIFT's CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt that one of our priorities is ensuring backward compatibility, making sure that all the new works with the old, and that our customers can rely on SWIFT to bridge the gap so that they don't have to worry about their legacy systems not being compatible with new market initiatives such as T2S. And cybercrime, he stated, "is costing the financial industry EUR 110 billion per year which makes it increasingly difficult to tackle individually. This is clearly an area that calls for collaboration."

The next speaker in the opening plenary was Stephan Müller, CIO, Commerzbank AG and SWIFT National Member Group chairperson for Germany. Müller focused on the state of the financial industry since the start of the crisis in 2008 and expressed the opinion that the days of operating in a "cosy world" are well and truly over, that the "New Normal" is here to stay and that the time has come for our industry to stop discussing things for years and make clear decisions. He stated that regulation and compliance are now using up one third of his bank's IT project budget and that the only way to bring that cost down is to work on common solutions. But, as he explained, collaboration does not come without its challenges. "Community and collaboration are like a puzzle," he stated, "it's hard to find the first piece and the result can be fragile." Talking about the role of SWIFT in this context, he said that SWIFT needs to find areas in which it can play a role whilst ensuring that it stays focused and "doesn't just jump on every buzz word and create a new initiative."

The second plenary looked in greater detail at SWIFT's products and services and featured not only speakers from SWIFT but also customer testimonials on our Sanctions solutions and MyStandards. Introducing the session, Christian Kothe, Head of Central and Eastern Europe, SWIFT, reminded attendees of the cornerstones of the SWIFT 2015 strategy - Deepening the core, Expanding the core and Enabling interoperability and TCO reduction - and explained that the focus for the plenary would be on the last two and on giving an update on things that are changing and are new in the products and services portfolio.

Victor Abbeloos, Head of Interfaces, SWIFT, looked at how the interface portfolio is evolving, with the launch of Lite2 on the low-end and the full integration into SWIFT of AMH, now renamed Alliance Messaging Hub at the other end of the interfaces spectrum. In addition to these two products, further enhancements have also been made to Alliance Access with the support of Linux - which according to customer calculations will deliver 35% on TCO reductions over 5 years - the integration platform and Alliance Operational Reporting. In the SWIFTRef suite of products, Abbeloos introduced SWIFT's IBAN Plus, a low-cost and highly efficient solution that will enable the industry to derive the BIC from the IBAN when the "IBAN only" rule comes into effect. Lastly, he reminded delegates of our wide range of Consulting, Support and Training services, all of which have been designed to make life easier for customers.

Taking back over from Abbeloos, Kothe covered three solutions that are part of Expanding the core, namely Matching, Sanctions Screening and Testing and MyStandards. For Matching, there are plans to renew our cross-asset class matching platform Accord to provide a richer, easier to use, more flexible and more cost-effective service. We also intend to build on our Global Electronic Trade Confirmation (GETC) solution to deliver a reliable, easy to implement, cost-effective option for local matching of equity and fixed income trades for buy and sell sides. Sanctions and our Sanctions Screening and Testing solutions were referred to regularly throughout the event and used as an example of an area where SWIFT has been able to give the industry peace of mind with a reliable, efficient and cost-effective solution to a common industry problem.

Dieter Gohl, Head of Sanctions and Albert Jankowski, Senior Compliance Officer both from Commerzbank AG, gave a presentation on the strategic choice to implement of Sanctions Testing within their own organization and the various phases of the project. Closing off the Products and Services plenary, Siegfried Vonderau, Head of Division TARGET2/TARGET2-Securities Services Management, Deutsche Bundesbank, set out the reasons why TARGET2-Securities (T2S) has decided to use MyStandards and the potential that they see in the tool. MyStandards, he said, will offer a central repository for all message documents and facilitate both communication with the T2S community and the distribution of message specifications to markets and customers. Being involved in the pilot phase of the tool has enabled them to get directly involved in its development and ensured a very close collaboration to define added value for the community.

Kicking off a very busy day two, was the Innovation Plenary, which was hosted by SWIFT's Innovation Team and focused on the relationship between collaboration, innovation and operational excellence. A panel of experts from other industries shared their perspectives on what it takes to achieve and maintain operational excellence and the role that both collaboration and innovation, not only in technology but also in people and process management, can play in achieving this. Jens Bergmann, Managing Director of Finance and Human Resources, Deutsche Flugsicherung (German Air Traffic Control) stated that it takes 10 to 15 years to introduce major innovation in the air traffic control sector and asked whether the banking industry is able to do this any faster. Talking about collaboration, Laurent Bounameau, Detective Superintendent, Federal Computer Crime Unit stated that "In tackling cybercrime, if we don't have collaboration, we achieve nothing." Patrick Moeyaert, Peer Review Programme Manager, World Association of Nuclear Operators also explained the value of collaboration in maintaining operational excellence in an industry in which, like air traffic control, mistakes can lead to the loss of lives. "Blunt, open peer reviews are the best way to get feedback and improve safety in nuclear plants," he stated. Bergmann added that "To ensure air traffic control safety, you need people to speak up. Obvious mistakes are very rare and we are most interested in learning from near misses. That has to be non-punitive and one must create an environment that allows people to speak up." He also explained how, in his experience, safety is achieved not by focusing on only one area, but by looking in detail at how people, procedures and technology interact.  Ludovic Loine, MMI Expert and HFE Manager, Areva Risk Management Consulting pointed out how it is most often a crisis that leads to increased collaboration and innovation and how closely these are interlinked.

The fourth plenary featured Alain Raes, Chief Executive EMEA, who brought delegates up to date on progress that is being made on the SWIFT 2015 in EMEA and the focus areas that we will be carrying forward from 2012 into 2013. Talking about the challenges of managing a region with 130 countries and 6,408 live SWIFT users, he referred to backward compatibility, which was mentioned by Vanbever in the opening plenary, and said that "In Europe everything we do has to be based on legacy, whilst other parts of our region have luxury of no legacy."  On the number of corporates connected to SWIFT, he commented: "Corporate connectivity to SWIFT has really taken off: we have 1000 corporates globally and over 700 of these are in EMEA." Raes also talked about the important role that SWIFT has in major industry initiatives such as SEPA and T2S, which he said will have huge implications for our operations in our industry and is "the mother of all projects at SWIFT." Finally, he summed up the 2013 strategy for SWIFT in EMEA in a nutshell as: focus, solutions, core and future.

SOFE in one word

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Kothe hosted the closing session which featured Raes and Udo Braun, Member of the Executive Board, Group Compliance, Commerzbank and SWIFT board member. Coming back to the theme of the conference, "Solving operational challenges - unlocking the power of collaboration," Braun told delegates that "Even collaboration needs a structured form, a compelling event, a strong target. It also needs a level playing field, and that can be an obstacle." "It's all about giving, making trades, in order to achieve a win win for everyone," continued Raes. Braun added that there is a clear need for SWIFT to deliver applications that can be shared by all, giving Sanctions as a good example. On cost and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), Raes explained that "SWIFT is an economies of scale model: the more you put in the central messaging layer, the more affordable it becomes" and that "if we work together to reduce TCO by 10%, it will make a much bigger difference than reducing SWIFT costs alone." Drawing the discussion to a close, Kothe asked the two panelists what message they would like to pass to the gathered SOFE audience.

Speaking of the relationship between the industry and SWIFT, Braun said "SWIFT and the financial industry is like a marriage: the financial industry could not work without SWIFT and staying together means success for all of us." Quoting John Ford to support his point, he said: "Coming together is a start, working together is progress, staying together is a success."  Raes, paid tribute to the levels of collaboration that had been seen throughout SOFE, especially in the many work sessions and said that he hoped that the topics discussed at this operations forum would be escalated and elevated within all institutions, so that the consequences of operational challenges can be understood, and solutions found.

De Metsenaere closed the event by thanking delegates for their attention, their hard work and contributions and saying that he was already looking forward to seeing everyone again at SOFE 2013.

Mixing it up: Meet the partners, Break-out sessions, Solutions zone...

Guaranteeing SOFE delegates the maximum opportunity to share operational insights, the agenda combined plenary sessions with a range of interactive work sessions - including a dynamic ‘meet the partners' session in chat room format to enable attendees to get to know the 8 exhibitors supporting SOFE. The Solutions zone provided a stimulating environment in which delegates could further network and explore a wide range of solutions available to help them achieve operational agility while preserving peace of mind.

The breakout sessions focused on:

  • Business Intelligence - leveraging SWIFT statistics to provide insights to clients
  • Changing the game with MyStandards - using it to increase cost-effectiveness, automate compliance with market practices, enhance customer service and reduce the development and operating expenses of business systems
  • Operations at SWIFT: Managing IT services in a high-availability environment - an insight into how SWIFT operates its portfolio of customer services: the infrastructure, the processes and the people.
  • Sanctions Solutions: We can help you sleep better - all about SWIFT's Sanctions Screening and Sanctions Testing solutions, their positioning, take-up and plans for the future.
  • Solving your Integration Challenges - looking at typical integration challenges, how they can be solved through SWIFT's proven delivery process and what this approach brings as benefits for you.
  • Support Services and how to evolve them - an outline of the Support Service portfolio, the different service, best practice discussions and listening to your views on how our Standard Support services should evolve to address your business needs.
  • SWIFT Alliance Porfolio - learning how the community has been reaping the benefits of Release 7 over the past 18 months, new customer-driven features planned for 2012/2013.
  • SWIFT for Corporates and Personal Digital Identity - discussing how SWIFT for Corporates is helping corporates to obtain automated global cash visibility across all their accounts, how treasurers are optimizing operations with their banks and how 3SKey removes the complexity of having numerous devices and passwords to prove identity and secure transactions with multiple banks.
  • SWIFTRef - All the data you need, up-to-date, accurate, any time and in any format from a single source with an explanation of how users of one of our legacy products (Online directory, BICPlusIBAN, SEPA Routing, SSI Directory can smoothly upgrade to the new SWIFTRef products.
  • SWIFT Training and Consulting Services - with a view on SWIFT's comprehensive portfolio of Consulting, Support and Training services to help you improve your business processes, bring your SWIFT infrastructure in line with best practices, and reduce your total cost of ownership.
  • T2S: Assessing the operational impact - all about SWIFT's Value Added Network for connectivity, and our suite of end-to-end services to support you in your T2S project, from start to finish.
  • Innotribe Lab: The Future of Business Intelligence (BI) - a highly interactive session looking at the future of BI, the big technology trends behind decision making and data and how these may impact our day-to-day decision making processes.
  • Innotribe Lab: Innovating in Operational Excellence - the Unconference - a continuation of the dialogue started in the Innovation plenary and a shared learning session. A melting pot of cross-industry collaboration in an "unconference" format with the participants shaping the content.


SOFE in one word

  • Stephan Mueller, Divisional Board Member Group Information Technology Commerzbank
  • Siegfried Vonderau, Head of Division TARGET2/TARGET2-Securities Services Management, Deutsche Bundesbank
  • Dieter Gohl, Head  of Sanctions, Commerzbank AG
  • Albert Jankowski, Senior Compliance Officer, Commerzbank AG
  • Jens Bergmann, Managing Director of Finance & Human Resources, DFS
  • Patrick Moeyaert, Peer Review Programme Manager, World Association of Nuclear Operators
  • Laurent Bounameau, Detective Superintendant , Federal Computer Crime Unit, Belgium
  • Ludovic Loine, MMI Expert and HFE Manager, Areva Risk Management Consulting
  • Udo Braun, Divisional Board Member, Commerzbank AG



Work sessions