16 December 2014

PSF community focuses on building for the future

The recent Premium Services Forum (PSF) in Paris brought together SWIFT's Premium Suite customers to explore how to harness technology change and ensure ongoing operational excellence

The world is changing - and it's changing fast. Opening the Premium Services Forum (PSF) 2014 in Paris, Birgit Van Diest, Head of EMEA Key Client Service Management, SWIFT, illustrated this point with two photographs of crowds watching Papal inaugurations, one in 2005 and one in 2013. In stark contrast to the earlier photo, the more recent shows a sea of smart devices held aloft by the watchers - compelling visual proof of how quickly this technology has become ubiquitous.

For the community charged with running the operations that underpin the financial industry, this rapid change has clear implications, Van Diest told the 130+ strong PSF audience. "Technology is evolving and it's for all of us to take this into account as we build for the future," she said. "We are all aiming for operational excellence, and the decisions we take now can have far-reaching consequences. We have to become expert in choosing the right approaches to keep the train running, and also to be able to react quickly when new opportunities arise."

Fascinating insights into how this crucial balance is achieved in a different industry came from guest speaker Mark Gallagher, Managing Director and Principal of Status GP Motor Racing Team, who gripped the audience with his account of how the Formula 1 (F1) industry is grappling with many of the same challenges as face the financial industry today.

He emphasised the importance of data to F1. "It's all about information flows," he told delegates - and these underpin not just performance, but also resilience, and above all, risk management. "The product has to be extremely resilient and reliable," he said. "To finish first, we have to first of all finish. We also have to have a product that is completely safe. F1 is as much about risk management as it is about performance. We are nothing if we don't manage the risk."

The F1 industry this year marked 20 years since its last driver fatalities, the consequence of a committed, industry-wide effort to significantly improve the safety of the sport, Gallagher explained. "I used to think we took risk management, safety and security seriously. In fact when I look back we were just adjusting the details," he said. "We had no overarching umbrella approach to risk management. That changed with the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna. There is no luck about risk management. This is all based on data that tells us everything we need to know about performance and risk.

Another vital element of the industry's approach to risk management has been to approach it as a common goal, he continued. "We do not regard safety and security as an area of competitive advantage. It's an area of collaboration."

Speed briefings
- Sanctions compliance
- Compliance Analytics
- The KYC Registry
- MT to MX – adoption by the
  European RTGS
- Alliance Messaging Hub (AMH)
- SWIFT Release Timeline

Gallagher also shared insights on two other areas in which the financial industry can learn important lessons from F1. The first was regulation. F1 is highly regulated, with recent ‘green' regulations particularly challenging for an industry which, as he said, "burns fossil fuels live on television in vast quantities". However, the different F1 teams have taken this challenge and turned it into an opportunity, showing the importance of understanding that "regulation shouldn't stifle innovation".

The second was the importance of people. Using the progressive shortening of pit-stops from the previously unthinkable 3 seconds to 2 to an incredible 1.92 seconds as an illustration, he told delegates: "When you are working with people for whom innovation, risk management and a complete focus on delivery is embedded in the culture, there is no limit to what can be achieved."

Inspired by Gallagher's presentation, PSF delegates then participated in a series of speed briefings and workshops (see boxes) on key topics of critical important for SWIFT's Premium community. During a brief welcome plenary on the second morning of the event, Michel Azard, Head of SWIFT Domain at Credit Agricole Group User Group Chairperson for France, reminded them of the parallels drawn out by Gallagher - especially the importance of collaboration on risk management and resilience, the need to have very strong, skilled teams and the power of using regulation as a spur to innovation. He dispatched delegates to continue the programme with the words, "We are all of us here in an F1 team. Go with speed and safety to the work sessions!"

Closing the PSF, Leo Punt, Head of Services & Support EMEA, SWIFT, shared with the audience the views of delegates captured on video during the event. The impact of Gallagher's presentation was clear, with one attendee commenting:  "One of the most interesting things I learned was about the enormous similarities between F1 and banking!" In addition, delegates confirmed the value of PSF as both a networking and an information sharing event. "PSF is an excellent opportunity once a year to connect with peers and see the new products and services coming from SWIFT," said one, with another adding: "It is an opportunity to learn things we don't pick up through our very tight focus at work, and to discuss in a very open way the problems we have in common."

Work sessions

MT and MX – Future proofing your messaging
This interactive session provided an overview of the MX roadmap, how SWIFT is involved, and how we can help with the technical and business infrastructure changes required.

Compliance – Back to the future
A workshop featuring a presentation on the basics of the compliance world – the process, the participants, the challenges – plus an interactive and much-appreciated simulation.

Business Continuity – Be ready!
Service goes down – service is restored. What happens behind the scenes between the two within your organisation? What do your peers do? What does SWIFT do? This session provided a platform for participants to exchange information on their procedures and challenges to help them master these situations.

Operational optimisation – Doing more with less
During this session, participants exchanged information on the challenges they face in their day-to-day operations, and with the help of SWIFT experts found ways of resolving them.

Let’s talk about swift.com – The changes, our roadmap and what’s in it for you
An interactive session detailing recent improvements, validating upcoming improvement plans and gathering customer input on other possible areas for enhancement.

Getting the most out of your Premium support contract
A review of the main features of the service and group discussions on different aspects.