Skip to main content
Header logo

The global provider
of secure financial messaging services

Learning from a ‘back-office revolution’ that transformed post-trade processing

Learning from a ‘back-office revolution’ that transformed post-trade processing

SWIFT Institute,
5 January 2017

New academic research from the SWIFT Institute follows the transformation of UK clearing and settlement processes across CREST’s 20-year history

Brussels, 5 January 2017 - The SWIFT Institute has released a new academic paper focussing on the transformation of UK clearing and settlement processes in the 1990’s. The report, entitled, “From Paper-based to Electronic Securities Post-trading: Financial Automation and the case of CREST” is written by Dr Hermann Rapp and Dr Cristiana Parisi and examines how CREST, a UK-based central securities depository, facilitated the leap from paper-based to electronic post-trading in London. The paper also proposes a framework for determining the success of distributed ledger technology and other future post-trading strategies.

The CREST research project captured first-hand information through documents and reports by contemporary witnesses regarding the ultimate success of CREST’s functionality in securities settlement. The research focuses primarily on how the CREST project was managed and introduced at a time of crisis, how the technology was designed, and its impact on financial markets, including today’s UK and European market infrastructures.

This research examines the origins of CREST, with its genesis arising out of the ‘settlement crisis’ during the stock market crash of 1987, when paper-based processes used at the London Stock Exchange were not able to keep pace. According to many interviews, the creation of CREST and the automation of securities settlement drove forward a ‘back-office revolution’. The resulting outcomes yielded higher transaction volumes, leading to new financial products and more efficient post-trade processing in terms of cost and time.  

“During this time of unprecedented change within the financial industry, this working paper looks back and examines the steps taken 20 years ago when the industry was in a similar state of profound transformation,” says Peter Ware, Director of the SWIFT Institute.

“It is important that we take this moment to ensure the data of contemporary witnesses is not lost. We also need to examine the successful role CREST played within the financial landscape and pinpoint how we can take these lessons and use them to help map out the infrastructure of banking technology for the future.”

Please click here to download a full copy of report.

The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors. SWIFT and the SWIFT Institute have not made any editorial review of this paper, therefore the views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of either SWIFT or the SWIFT Institute.

About SWIFT Institute

Launched in April 2012, the SWIFT Institute fosters independent research to extend the understanding of current practices and future needs across the financial industry.  Managed by SWIFT, and working in close collaboration with academics from top international universities, the SWIFT Institute brings the financial industry and academia together to explore ideas and share knowledge on topics of global importance. The research covers various aspects of transaction banking, including the following areas: Payments, Clearing / Settlement, Cash Management, Trade Finance, Trust and Securities. 

For more information, please follow us on LinkedIn: SWIFT Institute or Twitter:@SWIFTInstitute or visit


SWIFT is a global member-owned cooperative and the world’s leading provider of secure financial messaging services. We provide our community with a platform for messaging, standards for communicating and we offer products and services to facilitate access and integration; identification, analysis and financial crime compliance. Our messaging platform, products and services connect more than 11,000 banking and securities organisations, market infrastructures and corporate customers in more than 200 countries and territories, enabling them to communicate securely and exchange standardised financial messages in a reliable way. As their trusted provider, we facilitate global and local financial flows, support trade and commerce all around the world; we relentlessly pursue operational excellence and continually seek ways to lower costs, reduce risks and eliminate operational inefficiencies. Headquartered in Belgium, SWIFT’s international governance and oversight reinforces the neutral, global character of its cooperative structure. SWIFT’s global office network ensures an active presence in all the major financial centres.

For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter: @swiftcommunity and LinkedIn: SWIFT


+44 (0)20 7426 9400