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Universal Confirmations: Answers to your key questions

Universal Confirmations: Answers to your key questions

17 July 2020

With the deadline to confirm payments approaching, here’s what you should know to get prepared.

1. What is Universal Confirmations and why is it necessary?

Being able to track and confirm payments in real-time is fundamental in the world of modern commerce. All banks in a payments chain need to work together to bring this to reality.

We took the first step towards achieving this in 2018, with the introduction of the Unique End-to-End Transaction Reference (UETR) for all payments.

Payment confirmations - confirmation funds have hit the beneficiary account - are now the next crucial piece in the puzzle. That’s why, from 22 November 2020, it will be mandatory for all FIN users in the user categories Supervised Financial Institutions (SUPE) and Payment System Participants (PSPA) to confirm when a payment (MT 103) has been credited to the account of the beneficiary, placed on hold or transferred outside of SWIFT.

End-to-end tracking and confirmation of credit are essential for two reasons:

  • They enable financial institutions to provide an enhanced experience to customers
  • They drive efficiency gains by reducing the burden of exceptions and investigations through proactive confirmations
  • They are the building blocks for developing future payment services

What’s more, business processes and supply chains increasingly rely on payment confirmations: without it, sellers may not release the goods.

2. By which date do I need to confirm payments?

The deadline by which you need to start confirming your incoming MT 103 payments is 22 November 2020. This is part of the annual SWIFT Standards Release process and is a mandatory change all FIN users in the user categories Supervised Financial Institutions (SUPE) and Payment System Participants (PSPA).

3. I’m already a gpi member, do I need to do anything?

Universal Confirmations is mandatory for all 8-character BICs receiving MT 103 instructions. That means that even if you have one of your branches registered for a SWIFT gpi service, you’ll need to provide confirmations from your other branches which aren’t signed up to SWIFT gpi. This also includes all country corridors, so if you have certain corridors not on gpi yet, you will need to be able to provide confirmation updates for these messages too. 

4. How long do I have to provide a confirmation update?

You’re required to provide confirmation to the Tracker within a maximum of two business days following the value date in the MT 103. 

To find out more, visit our Universal Confirmations business rules documentation.

5. How can I confirm payments?

There are a number of ways you can confirm your payments, both automated and manual.

For institutions who handle low volumes of customer payments, you can access our free Basic Tracker tool. The Basic Tracker allows you to manually confirm payments, whilst also accessing some basic search and tracking features.

For institutions that handle higher volumes of payments, there are four other options:

  • MT 199 – All SWIFT customers can confirm payments by sending an interbank payment message (MT 199) to a dedicated Tracker BIC through their existing SWIFT interface.
  • API - All SWIFT users are now able to use the gpi Connector to update the Tracker using the unique tracking code of the transaction.
  • Batch confirmations – A batch confirmations standard is available through your SWIFT Alliance interface, allowing you to reduce the implementation effort to a simple end-of-day export file in CSV format from their payment application.
  • ISO 20022 - From 2021, an ISO 20022-compliant XML messaging standard will also be available to provide confirmations to the Tracker.

Find out more about ways to confirm

6. What’s the difference between the Basic Tracker and SWIFT gpi? 

The Basic Tracker enables banks handling low volumes of customer payments to provide payment confirmations free of charge. The Basic Tracker also provides a limited set of features to track and search payments, as well as monitor your Universal Confirmations compliance, although these features may be limited if you don’t meet the confirmations mandate.

SWIFT gpi, meanwhile, is a paid for service, which includes advanced search and tracking, view on deducts, intermediary routings, send and receive amounts, FX and more, as well as value-added services to reduce friction. In addition, SWIFT gpi customers are also able to integrate tracking and confirmation features into their customer-facing channels, enabling automated status updates directly to end customers. 

7. How will I be measured on my Universal Confirmations performance?

All eligible FIN users have been measured on their Universal Confirmations compliance since May 2020. Initially, this is only be visible to yourself. This information will be available as a separate tab in the Basic Tracker (Note: for gpi members, your Universal Confirmations performance for all your BICs is already available in Observer Insights.)

From 1 June 2021, your Universal Confirmations compliance will become visible to the whole community, in the Observer Insights (for gpi members) and in the Basic Tracker Observer (for non-gpi members).

A simple traffic light system will be in place to monitor compliance and will work accordingly:

  • Green indicates institutions are fully compliant.
  • Orange indicates institutions are not compliant for one week. In the case of an orange indicator, institutions have 12 weeks to reach compliance before being issued a red rating.
  • Red indicates institutions that are not compliant and have missed the 12-week compliance cut off.

Please note: The score measurement improvement period starts before Standards Release 2020, from September 2020. Therefore, if financial institutions are still not compliant two weeks after SR2020, they will become red and therefore lose access to the search and tracking functionality on the Basic Tracker. 
For more information about these rules, please visit the Basic Tracker documentation.

8. I still have questions, how can I find out more?

If you have more questions about Universal Confirmations, including if you’re a market infrastructure or a vendor, there’s a couple of ways you can get further help.