In 1973, when there was no public Internet or other practical mechanism for secure interbank messaging across borders, 239 banks from 15 countries established the Swift network. Today the La Hulpe, Belgiumbased cooperative connects 9,000 financial and nonfinancial corporations in 209 countries, handling 15.4 million messages per day as of this years first quarter.
Swift is the quintessential financial industry utility, passing on its economies in the form of lower fees. But Lázaro Campos, CEO since 2007, is intent on seeking and spreading more wealth, and Chris Church, in the dual role of chief executive for the Americas and global head of securities, oversees two of Swifts bigger growth sectors.
Joining Swift in 2008 from BT Global Financial Services Radianz unit, which provides connectivity and hosting for financial services companies, Church adopted a cause of his own: corporate actions. Merger deals, dividend changes and the like are a labor-intensive, error-prone headache an estimated $1 billion annual burden for the investment industry. Church, 49, calls it the last bastion of back-office processing that hasnt succumbed to automation.
Swift is working with Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. to automate corporate action messages using the XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) standard. Church says their May release of draft messages is an exciting milestone on the way toward reducing costs and risks and, he hopes, a model for collaborative, joint efforts on a global scale.
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