SIBOS, SWIFT’s annual gathering of the banking community, is a very high-quality event but also a very different type of event to the mainstream fintech and payments conferences such as Money20/20.
SIBOS: 95% suits, 5% jeans.
Money20/20: 5% suits, 95% jeans.
Security is also noticeably high (think airport–level). Rarely do this many senior bankers gather together globally in one place.
- Co-opetition has become a core tenet of financial services and in particular cross-border payments. While many banks and service providers compete at face value, many continue to partner with one another underneath the surface. No single organisation can solve anywhere close to all the requirements of all customer needs across c. 40,000+ different cross-border payment corridors in 200+ markets.
- Peel away another layer of the onion and you find the evolving relationships between fintechs and banks. Many of my conversations at the conference highlight how complex these relationships are. Some banks are completely focused on working with fintechs to move money around the world, yet they still need other banks to complete the journey (for direct payouts or as correspondents/middle-men). These other banks’ attitudes to the same customer can be completely different. Risk appetite sits at the heart of this, but different technology stacks and lack of interoperability only add further difficulties to delivering a seamless payment experience.
- And if you thought crypto or blockchain was the solution to all these cross-border problems, you’d be out of touch with the sentiment of the bankers at the conference. Trade finance yes, but not cross-border at the moment – it hardly ever came up in my conversations. Many of the current pain points of the sector can instead be solved by other solutions, such as direct connections to central banks, faster payment schemes or wider adoption of new standards.
Unsurprisingly, there was plenty from SWIFT at their own event on new products and initiatives. SWIFT Go is particularly interesting as SWIFT looks to address moving more low-value payments through its network. Given SWIFT’s already massive reach, a big uptake in the product could alter some of the landscape.
Conference season continues full steam ahead and I look forward to seeing many of you at Money20/20 in a few weeks.