Anyone in the world of payments knows SWIFT—the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication—because it’s a crucial part of the international payments infrastructure. SWIFT will turn 50 next year, and it’s possible that in all that time it has never been subject to more disruption and innovation than it is right now. 

Consider the many current industry trends that connect with SWIFT right now. These can be divided into three categories: 

1. Cloud migrations. As banks move to the cloud, they are taking their SWIFT infrastructure with them. This introduces new complexity to every cloud consideration, including: 

    • Concentration and exit risks 
    • Choosing a public or private provider (or providers) 
    • Evaluating and adopting different “as-a-service” options (infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, and application-as-a-service) 
    • Automated deployments 
    • Finding resilient, low-latency, high-availability infrastructure 
    • Deciding how much data and compute load to keep on-site

2. Payments modernization. Standards and tech changes are modernizing many of the oldest systems and rules in payments right now. These include ISO 20022, open banking  APIs, and SWIFT’s own gpi standard. 

3. Security and data privacy concerns, both of which continue to grow as the world becomes more digital. Cyber criminals continue to ride the high catalyzed by the pandemic, making digital security more important and challenging than ever. SWIFT’s launch of the Customer Security Programme attestation and external assessments system, along with numerous “sovereign cloud” regulations like the GDPR, present new considerations around data privacy.

Combined, the concerns above present a formidable challenge for payments players of any size. Staying on top of so many competing priorities and internal projects when constrained by finite resources is no easy task.  

Key characteristics of SWIFT migrations 

There’s no single product or solution that will deal with all of the complex changes described above. But there is, in our experience, an approach that can help a bank reliably and efficiently design and build SWIFT infrastructure in the cloud. 

The key characteristics of this approach are: 

    • Modular design. Wherever possible, a bank should seek “plug and play” solutions with high availability. This boosts both efficiency and resilience. 
    • Agile project management. With so many changes happening concurrently, flexibility in project delivery can be even more valuable than usual. 
    • Automated, repeatable DevOps. Use best practices for deploying applications, using tools like Git, Jenkins, Terraform and Ansible.  
    • Compliance with current security and privacy practices, including SWIFT CSP. 
    • Modern testing tools that can ensure functionality before cloud infrastructure goes live. This should include both functional and non-functional testing. 
    • Maintenance systems that support a robust production environment while also minimizing unconstrained access to servers and maximizing least-privilege user interface access. 
    • Preference for applications with business activity monitoring across multiple systems. This can boost the visibility of queue builds and allow real-time monitoring of payments value and volume. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, SWIFT migration projects benefit greatly from the experience of the delivery team. This applies both to specific SWIFT products like the Alliance Messaging Hub and Swift Alliance Gateway (SAG/SNL) and other, similar transitions in payments like ISO migrations. A team that has been there and done that can make a tremendous difference when it comes to projects of this complexity and scale. 

To learn more about setting up your SWIFT migration projects for success, contact me here.

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