More than $40 trillion was transferred over Swift’s global payments innovation (gpi) system during 2018, Swift has announced. The share of cross-border messaging using gpi rose from 15% at the start of 2018 to 56% by the end of the year. More than 3500 banks, accounting for 85% of Swift’s total payments traffic have committed to adopting gpi.
Gpi carries more than $300 billion a day in 148 currencies across more than 1100 country corridors. On average, 40% of Swift gpi payments are credited to end beneficiaries within five minutes. Half are credited within 30 minutes; three quarters within six hours; and almost 100% within 24 hours.
The system opened for live payments in January 2017 and a month later 12 banks were exchanging gpi payments across 60 country corridors. The pioneers of the service include Bank of China, BBVA, Citi, Danske Bank, DBS Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, ING Bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, Nordea Bank and Standard Chartered Bank.
Initially, gpi offered a faster, more transparent and traceable cross-border payment service. The gpi Tracker allowed banks to provide corporate treasurers with a real-time, end to end view on the status of their payments, including confirmations when payments had been credited to beneficiaries’ accounts. This gave treasurers certainty that remittance information, such as invoice references, were transferred unaltered to the beneficiary.
In January, Swift attributed its double digit growth in message volumes to the “mass adoption” of gpi. Swift’s figures showed an average of 31.31 million messages a day in 2018 as its annual traffic rose to record high of over 7.8 billion. This marks an 11.3% increase on 2017 – and a 56% increase during the past five years. Swift chief executive, Gottfried Leibbrandt, said: “The success of Swift gpi and its rapid adoption has played a key part in our increased annual message traffic, with well over a million payments a day now passing over gpi.”
Since launch, a number of digital services have been added to gpi, including the gpi Observer, a quality assurance tool that monitors participants’ adherence to the gpi business rules. Swift also conducted a gpi nostro proof of concept (POC). Based on input from POC participant banks, Swift developed a DLT nostro solution consisting of a DLT application and ISO 20022 data model. The solution was based on the gpi standards and integrated the Intraday Liquidity Standard developed with the Liquidity Implementation Task Force.
During the POC, participating banks tested 34 standard use cases with the Swift DLT sandbox environment, which is a use-case agnostic DLT platform that enables experimentation and collaboration between Swift and its members. Swift describes the sandbox as a “first step towards a potential Swift DLT platform”, combining Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 with Swift assets. Preliminary results from the POC testing were encouraging. Significant progress was made in the underlying technology with regards to data confidentiality, governance and identification framework. There were, however, challenges. Initial findings demonstrated a clear difference from one financial institution to another in the potential value of a DLT-based solution. “A value proposition for each player – catering for differing levels of sophistication, automation of operations and past investments – is yet to be developed and would be key to ensuring the industry-wide adoption,” Swift’s report on the POC stated. “Further work is also required to assess how to take full advantage of the DLT solution whilst minimising integration costs with legacy back-office applications. And, while significant progress has been made on the technology side, it is still early days for the latest generation of blockchain technology, and, as such, it will be some time before it is mature enough for mission-critical applications.”
A separate POC was launched in January 2019. It involves a trial of gpi Link, which will provide a gateway to link e-commerce and trading platforms. It will enable gpi users to connect to multiple trade platforms, enabling gpi payment initiation, payment tracking, payer authentication and credit confirmation.
Users will be able to continuously monitor and control payment flows and the subsequent movement of goods by those trade platforms. It will support application programming interfaces (APIs), as well as Swift and ISO standards.
The idea behind the POC is to bring global, fast, secure and transparent settlement in fiat currencies to DLT-based commerce. The first stage of the POC will be based on R3’s blockchain platform, Corda, and will enable ‘off-ledger’ payment settlement based on gpi.
In the POC, corporates using the R3 platform will be able to authorise payments from their banks via gpi Link; gpi payments will be settled by the corporates’ banks, and the resulting credit confirmations will be reported back to the trade platforms via gpi Link on completion.
While the POC initially addresses R3’s DLT-based trade environment, it will be extended to support other DLT, non-DLT and e-commerce trade platforms.
One of the factors driving gpi adoption is corporate demand. In February 2018, Swift launched a pilot of the gpi for Corporates (g4C) standard that enables corporate to initiate and track gpi payments, to and from multiple banks, directly from their ERP and treasury management systems. At Sibos, some representatives from participating corporations spoke about their experiences with gpi. Martin Schlagater, head of treasury operations at Roche, explained that prior to gpi, cross-border payments were slow and disappeared into a “black box” environment where nothing would be known about a payment for two to three days. If a payment disappeared or other issues arose resolution was a manual process that could take weeks. “This has been addressed with gpi and there’s more to come,” he said.
Javier Orejas, head of banking, EMEA and Americas at IATA, said his organisation had pushed its banks to offer gpi in their portfolios of services. “More and more banks are opening new corridors and currencies to gpi, which is very important for international corporates such as IATA.” He and Schlagater observed that an increasing number of banks were offering gpi services.
Peter Claus-Landi, senior director at GE, said the pilot has been very positive, with collaboration between Swift, banks and corporates. “GE now looks to include gpi in our requests and also we rate banks in our scorecards on whether they offer gpi,” he said.
G4C pilot organisations included Airbus, BBVA, Booking.com, Borealis, Citi, Deutsche Bank, General Electric, IATA, JP Morgan, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Microsoft, Ping An Group, Roche, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Société Générale, Standard Chartered Bank and Swift Treasury. By October 2018, all were using the standard. All other pilot participants planned to go live before the end of 2018.
Emma Loftus, head of global payments for JP Morgan’s Treasury Services, said: “For years, clients have asked their banks for end to end transparency which is easy to use, understand, and implement. With 76% of our payments now being executed via gpi, we are experiencing direct benefits in our ability to respond to client enquiries. Processes that have taken days are being now completed within seconds.”
Other plans in the pipeline for gpi include a raft of functionalities and integration into a diverse range of applications. This includes the rollout of an integrated and interactive API-based service facilitating real-time dynamic bank to bank interaction to improve the predictability and efficiency of international payments via a post-payment investigation and reconciliation service.