Messaging and Standards
Table of contents
Financial messaging services
SWIFT’s messaging services are trusted and used by more than 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Providing reliable, secure and efficient messaging services to our community of users, SWIFT is the backbone of global financial communication.
Our messaging services went live in 1977 to replace the Telex technology then widely used by banks to communicate instructions related to cross-border transfers. The service remains as relevant today as it was ground-breaking back then, representing the primary communications channel for financial institutions engaged in correspondent banking all around the world, and offering the most secure, cost-effective and reliable way of transmitting financial messages relating to payments, securities, treasury and trade.
Since its inception, SWIFT has played a leading role, together with its community, in the standardisation that underpins global financial messaging and its automation. The use of standardised messages and reference data ensures that data exchanged between institutions is unambiguous and machine friendly, facilitating automation, reducing costs and mitigating risks. Through SWIFT, banks, custodians, investment institutions, central banks, market infrastructures and corporate clients, can connect with one another exchanging structured electronic messages to perform common business processes, such as making payments or settling trades.
SWIFT is committed to the confidentiality, integrity and availability of its messaging services. We have controls and procedures in place to: protect message data from unauthorised disclosure; to help ensure the accuracy, completeness and validity of messages and their delivery; and to ensure our service availability requirements are met.
Our messaging platform, known as SWIFTNet, produces huge efficiencies for our users by enabling them to seamlessly and securely communicate through a single shared utility. Financial services organisations have increasingly complex and diverse messaging requirements – whether communicating with market infrastructures, with correspondents or with commercial clients.
Over SWIFTNet, today we therefore offer four complementary messaging services, all of which allow for seamless straight-through-processing: FIN, InterAct, FileAct and WebAccess. Each service delivers different advantages that cater for the distinct messaging needs of our different users.
FIN is the longest established of all our messaging services. It enables the exchange of messages formatted with the traditional SWIFT MT standards. These standards cover a wide range of business areas and are widely used and accepted by the financial community. FIN enables the exchange of messages on a message-per-message basis, and supports the exchange of proprietary formats between market infrastructures and their customers. It also works in store-and-forward mode and offers extensive functionalities, such as message copy, broadcasts to groups of other users, and online retrieval of previously-exchanged messages.
Like FIN, InterAct enables the exchange of messages on a message-per-message basis, and supports the exchange of proprietary formats between market infrastructures and their customers. In addition, InterAct offers increased flexibility, including store-and-forward messaging, real-time messaging, and real-time query-and-response options. The InterAct service enables the exchange of MX message types, which are expressed in the flexible XML syntax and developed in accordance with the ISO 20022 standard methodology, many of which have already been published as ISO 20022 standard definitions.
FileAct enables the transfer of files. It is typically used to transfer large batches of messages, such as bulk payment files, very large reports, or operational data.
With WebAccess, SWIFTNet users can browse securely on financial web sites available on SWIFTNet using standard Internet technologies and protocols.
Connecting to our Messaging Services
In order to use SWIFT’s Messaging Services, customers need to connect to the SWIFT environment. There are several ways of connecting to the SWIFT environment: directly via permanent leased lines, the internet, or SWIFT’s cloud service (Lite2); or indirectly via their appointed partners.
Messages sent by our customers are authenticated using our specialised security and identification technology (Files can also be sent via our FileAct messaging service. The connection descriptions apply to files as well as messages). Encryption is added as the messages leave the customer environment (or customers’ partners’ environments) and enter the SWIFT environment. Messages remain in the protected SWIFT environment, subject to all SWIFT’s confidentiality and integrity commitments, throughout the transmission process - whilst they are transmitted to our operating centres (OPCs) where they are processed - until they are safely delivered to the receiver.
In addition to the different connectivity options and our range of gateway products, SWIFT also provides a range of interfaces, providing seamless links between users’ internal systems and the SWIFT environment. Our different interfaces all manage the SWIFT protocols needed to access the SWIFT environment, whilst the different options are tailored to support different services and functionalities, depending on customer needs.
All SWIFT messaging services can be combined with a range of standard and optional features. Users can increase efficiencies and tailor their SWIFTNet package to their messaging needs by making use of these additional tools.
Traffic & Pricing
The SWIFT community keeps growing and we record new peak messaging days several times a year. The growth in message volumes and users generates economies of scale which we return to our community through message price reductions.
The more users join SWIFT and the more messaging traffic there is, the greater the benefits are to the community, as our traffic growth contributes to significant price reductions for our users. We offer several different pricing options to suit every user profile, including a fixed rate for large users.
Enabling efficient communication for the financial world
SWIFT was founded in 1973, based on the ambitious and innovative vision of creating shared worldwide financial messaging services, and a common language for international financial messaging. To achieve this vision, SWIFT has long played an important role in standardisation, notably by creating and maintaining global financial messaging and reference data standards.
Standards are vital to allow for a common understanding of the data across linguistic and systems boundaries and to permit the seamless, automated transmission, receipt and processing of communications exchanged between users. Use of standardised messages and reference data ensures that data exchanged between institutions is unambiguous and machine friendly; in turn this enables efficient automation, thereby reducing costs and mitigating risks.
Today financial players routinely send structured electronic messages to one another to perform common business processes, such as making payments or confirming trades. In its ongoing role as a financial messaging standardiser, the SWIFT Standards group works with the financial community to define standards for these messages. These standards specify the data elements that can be included in the messages, document the meaning and format of those data elements, and specify which of the data elements are mandatory, which are optional, and which are only required in specific business scenarios.
The message standards also describe the actions expected of the message receivers, and, because some business processes require several messages to be exchanged, they also specify the order in which messages should be sent and received.
SWIFT Standards acts as Registration Authority (RA) for several standards that define universal codes for common data items, or reference data. RAs are appointed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to ensure the integrity of the reference data defined by ISO standards, and to publish the data in an accessible form for the benefit of the user community. Examples of such standards include the ISO 9362 Business Identifier Code (BIC - commonly referred to as the “SWIFT” code), which is used to identify parties, and the ISO 10383 Market Identifier Code (MIC), which is used to identify exchanges, trading platforms, regulated or non-regulated markets and trade reporting facilities. SWIFT Standards also contributes to the formalisation and implementation of other reference data standards, notably the ISO 17442 Legal Entity Identifier (LEI), which is increasingly required for regulatory reporting purposes. Financial messaging standards specify these codes wherever possible to minimise the ambiguity of data.
SWIFT Standards and the community
SWIFT Standards works with the user community to specify and publish Market Practice - rules and best-practice advice on how standards should be deployed to meet particular business needs or to comply with regulation.
The SWIFT Standards group maintains several important message standards. The SWIFT MT standard, for instance, is used for international payments, cash management, trade finance and treasury business. Working with the SWIFT community, SWIFT Standards operates the annual maintenance process for MT, which ensures that the standard evolves to meet changing market needs.
SWIFT Standards, under contract to ISO, also maintains two open messaging standards: ISO 15022, which is used for securities settlement and asset servicing, and ISO 20022, which is scoped to all financial industry processes.
The role of ISO 20022 is twofold: it is a methodology for creating financial messaging standards, and it is a related body of content, which includes definitions of common industry terms, and message definitions addressing an expanding range of business areas, including payments, cash management, treasury, cards and securities.