What’s Next for SWIFT? APIs, Realtime Payments, and Cryptocurrency

EXCLUSIVE–With global payments service SWIFT gpi (global payments innovation) finishing up its first active year, how is SWIFT planning to push the service forward in 2018?

The banking infrastructure provider will be moving gpi forward through new partnerships and new projects, most notably API capabilities, Stephen Grainger, managing director, head of North America for SWIFT, told Bank Innovation.

“We’ve enabled the central tracker to work with APIs, and we’re already seeing a number of banks that have deployed the API solution today,” Grainger said. “We are also seeing a significant pipeline of clients who want to utilize the API capability. If you look at something like Sibos, most organizations are talking about APIs and trying to work out, ‘What does their API strategy look like?’ We’re seeing gpi as a core construct in terms of SWIFT’s ability to be able to deliver against that.”

More than 120 banks have already “committed” to go live on SWIFT gpi by the end of the new year, Grainger said, and SWIFT will continue to focus on partnerships moving forward. The aim is to make sure SWIFT gpi becomes “the standard by which all payments are made over SWIFT,” Grainger said.

Currently, about 75% of SWIFT cross-border payments run through the gpi payment service, a percentage that should expand as SWIFT moves forward with its API capabilities in the service.

While “true” real-time payments aren’t quite there on the network, SWIFT gpi, which was launched in February 2016, has seen “millions of payments to date,” Grainger said, with “the vast majority of those being credited with value on the same day.”

“We see a very large number of those being credited within minutes,” Grainger said.

SWIFT is focusing on APIs because they are one of the most “accessible” technologies today, Grainger said, as opposed to other, more untried technologies like blockchain.

“In terms of organizations being able to transform their value propositions to their clients, APIs are part of the technology set of capabilities that are more readily available, more readily deployable today, and more readily able to drive change in that customer-based proposition,” Grainger said.

One area SWIFT will not be considering is generating its own digital assets, or cryptocurrency, Grainger said. This is at odds with other cross-border payment services, notably Ripple, whose digital currency XRP is used to conduct payments over its distributed ledger network.

However, that doesn’t mean SWIFT will ignore cryptocurrency entirely when it comes to its gpi service.

“Generating and being responsible for the issuance of an asset is not our business,” Grainger said. “If banks want to go down that route and create and issue assets that are available in alternative formats, we’re able to support them. Our network can support them, but we don’t want to compete in that space with our members.”

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