The theme of ‘seizing the opportunity’ draws record registrations to SWIFT’s Business Forum London 2018

  • The community gathered to discuss ‘seizing the opportunity’ at London’s historic Tobacco Dock
  • Over 1,300 delegates from around the globe signed up for the event
  • Innovation, community collaboration and risk management emerged as key themes throughout the day

BF London 2018 Highlights

SWIFT Business Forum London 2018 – Highlights

More than 1,300 UK business leaders and industry experts made SWIFT’s annual Business Forum London.

Opening the event, Javier Pérez-Tasso, Chief Executive of the Americas & UK at SWIFT introduced the importance of collaborating to innovate, while managing risk, as key themes for the day.

Delegates arrived at Tobacco Dock to the news that HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, had become the latest global bank to pledge its support for SWIFT’s global payment innovation (gpi) service.

To date, 160 financial institutions around the world are committed to SWIFTgpi, with nearly 50 currently live on the service and more to follow. SWIFTgpi dramatically increases the speed, transparency and traceability of cross-border payments for users, allowing banks to credit payments to end beneficiaries within minutes -- many within seconds.

Transformation through collaboration

The opening panel brought together Andrew Hauser, Executive Director for Banking, Payments and Financial Resilience at the Bank of England; Andrew Pearce, Global Head of Payments at HSBC; and Bob Wigley, Chairman of UK Finance in a lively discussion moderated by SWIFT CEO, Gottfried Leibbrandt.

A major talking point that came out of the discussion was the question of the extent incumbent players such as banks should partner with fintechs, in order to stay relevant.

BF London

Pearce explained how institutions can only tackle the complexity of the market today through collaboration and leveraging the wider ecosystem. Wigley agreed, saying collaboration between participants in the payments network is key to retaining customer trust and tackling external threats.

Andrew Hauser outlined what he believed is the nightmare scenario for banks - fintechs taking the profitable parts of the banking business model and leaving the banks as utilities -- or worse. Hauser said this hasn’t happened quite yet and that there’s a trend of fintechs taking on the less profitable parts and unbundling them. He added that large technology companies specialise in understanding what customers want and will be able to attract them, to which Wigley replied that attracting customers and making money are two very different challenges.

Next, the discussion moved on to the details of how this will work in practice, and how legacy systems can be combined with new technologies. Pearce said that large organisations need to be flexible enough to enable new technologies while still having systems in place to ensure that risks are mitigated.

SWIFT’s Gottfried Leibbrandt detailed how this collaboration has successfully happened in correspondent banking with the introduction of APIs, which have been revolutionary for the industry and key to the development of SWIFTgpi.

The panellists agreed that the focus shouldn’t be on whether fintechs were going to replace incumbents, or if they were driving innovation amongst bigger players, concluding that the focus should instead be on encouraging innovation and pooling resources so that the customer gets the best service possible.

Cyber security remains a top priority

Javier Pérez-tasso, BF LondonCyber resilience was a key theme throughout the event. In his opening remarks, Javier Pérez-Tasso reminded delegates that bank robberies have existed for centuries and cyber-attacks are simply the latest, more evolved version of this.

Pérez-Tasso shared how SWIFT is helping its members deal with the cyber threats through the Customer Security Programme, enabling fraud protection and prevention, as well as creating data that can be used for issues such as credit risk analysis.

During the afternoon sessions on cyber security, hosted by SWIFT’s Chief Information and Security Officer, Marc Hofmann, the audience was asked to predict where the World Economic Forum places cyber-attacks on its 2018 Global Risk Report. Nearly 50% correctly placed it in Band B – ahead of risks such as interstate conflict, water crises’ and climate change.

Cheri McGuire, CISO of Standard Chartered, stated that cyber is a top priority for all financial organisations. This view was backed up by the next audience poll, revealing that 85% believe it is a major concern and the community needs to do more to both prevent and tackle risk.

Collaboration and information sharing were key themes on this panel with Kevin Giles from the National Cyber Crime Unit at the National Crime Agency, who pointed out how industry collaboration is vital in the battle against cybercrime.

The panel and its polls reiterated how cyber security is a pressing issue across all industries and stressed the importance of companies and organisations working together to tackle cybercrime.

SWIFT gpi packs them in

SWIFT’s Stephen Grainger and Ryan McAuliffe, along with HSBC’s  Global Head of Payments Products, Global Liquidity & Cash Management, Tom Halpin helmed a packed room of delegates who assembled for a live demo of the ‘gpi tracker’, which showcased its’ potential benefits for banks and their corporate customers.

The service has handled more than 15 million payments between correspondent banks since going live in February 2017.

Innovation in cross-border payments

The innovation in cross-border payments session stimulated a lively discussion around how new market entrants, changing technologies and regulatory and compliance pressures are all driving change in this space.

Another highlight of the day was the panel on corporates’ views on the future of cross-border payments. Panellists agreed that they want their payments to be fast, transferred safely and to provide full transparency and traceability.

Collaboration arose as a key theme when panellists were questioned if they would work directly with a fintech, or trust a bank that uses a fintech as part of its offering.

Stephen Darnley, Corporate Treasurer at IATA, said that he would be comfortable working with a fintech as long as the collaboration with a bank makes the process more efficient and reduces costs. He went on to say that he would like to see faster payments in the B2B space.

Sue Dean, Head of Treasury Services, EMEA at JP Morgan, added that regulation has impacted the speed at which banks have moved, but now they are in a position where regulators are driving innovation.

David Scola, Global Head of Financial Institutions at Barclays, affirmed that SWIFT gpi is a massive leap forward and solves many of the issues raised by corporates. Scola believes there will be greater uniformity in the correspondent banking space as a result of this innovation.

BF LondonThe panel ended with a question on whether or not the cross-border payments space will still be dominated by banks in five years. Darnley thinks it will, but that there will be a lot more collaboration with fintechs. Nicholas Franck, Director of Group Treasury Projects at Oriflame, agreed that this is the case and there is a greater understanding amongst banks and fintechs that they can be stronger together. Scola noted that banks will not be replaced because they offer other services that corporates rely on that are not offered by fintechs, such as loans and liquidity.

The day also included engaging panels on compliance, the impact of API technology and the road to instant payments, which proved both relevant and popular with delegates.

The final panel of the day was preceded by an introduction to SWIFT’s 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility recipient, Code First Girls. Amali de Alwis, CEO of the organisation, delivered an inspiring presentation on its work with female coders and alumni that have gone on to develop successful careers in the fintech and financial services industry.

Brave new world of financial services

The day wrapped up with an engaging all-female panel featuring Natalie Ceeney CBE, Chair at Innovate Finance, Marion King, Group Director of Payments for NatWest, and Angela Knight CBE, Chair of Tilman Brewin Dolphin.

Moderated by BBC Newsnight Anchor, Kirsty Wark, the panellists explored the importance of talent to the fintech and financial services sectors, and whether Brexit is casting doubt over the UK being able to attract talent.

Gender (im)balance in finance

Discussions moved on to the gender imbalance in the fintech industry. Ceeney argued that fintech are lagging behind financial services, citing that only 19% of senior management roles are held by women.

Knight added that boards are becoming more balanced in terms of gender and that change is on its way, but that it is happening slowly. She drew applause from the audience when she said that if all of the men negotiating Brexit for the UK were replaced with women, 90% of the ego would leave the negotiations, leading to greater success and progress.

BF London 2018

The SWIFT Business Forum London panel ended with an audience poll which revealed that, unsurprisingly, the industry believes Brexit will have the biggest impact on financial services during the next 12 months.

Throughout the day, there was engaging debate and a real buzz surrounding the main themes of innovation in financial services, community collaboration and cyber resilience.

The event displayed that there is a will for these experts and business leaders to work together, and collaboratively seize the exciting opportunities currently available in the financial services and fintech sectors.

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