Since its launch in 2007 SWIFT for Corporates has taken great strides forward in Asia Pacific. In this interview Stella Lim, Head of Corporate Sales, Asia Pacific at SWIFT details the solutions that SWIFT offer its corporate clients, how it has improved and lowered the cost of connectivity to its network and also what the future holds for the region.
Head of Corporate Sales, Asia Pacific
Stella Lim is the Head of Corporate Sales for SWIFT in Asia Pacific, based in Singapore. She leads all corporate sales and corporate account management activities, and manages a team to drive SWIFT’s corporate sales strategies in Asia Pacific.
Prior to this role, Stella was Commercial Director, Asia Pacific, responsible for recruiting all segments of new customers in the ASEAN region. She introduced SWIFT products and services to new customers, enabling them to go live on the SWIFT network. These new customers include securities institutions, corporates and banks. Stella joined SWIFT Singapore in March 2008 as Country Manager for Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand.
Stella has extensive working experiences with information technology, banking and corporates. Before joining SWIFT, Stella worked with a number of financial software houses, including SmartStream Technologies, Internet Security Systems, Netik.com, Deloitte, with responsibilities for pre-sales, account management, trainer, consultancy services and project management.
For more information about SWIFT, please visit www.swift.com/corporates.
For those perhaps unfamiliar with SWIFT for Corporates, what is it and what are the benefits?
SWIFT for Corporates allows companies to access the SWIFT network and communicate with their banking partners using a standardised set of financial messages through a single gateway. This has an advantage over using bank proprietary connections because corporates will no longer have to manage multiple portals and sign-on tokens, not to mention payment formats, standards and languages. This allows them to drive standardisation, rationalisation and automation. By using SWIFT and achieving these efficiency gains, corporates can ultimately obtain greater visibility over their cash, reduce their counterparty risk, and increase their control and security.
How has the SWIFT offering developed over the years?
As SWIFT for Corporates has grown, we have developed a number of other solutions that can be used to further drive automation and standardisation. For instance, we are leading the way in the bank payment obligation (BPO), a solution which looks to digitise and automate the exchange of trade documents with banks, allowing for faster processing. Another product is SWIFTRef, which is a global reference data utility that allows corporates to make their commercial and treasury payments more efficient by providing high-quality reliable data sourced directly from its originators in a format compatible with ERP systems. Meanwhile, 3SKey is a multi-bank and multi-channel solution for corporates to securely authenticate and approve operations using digital signatures and strong authentication. There is also the MyStandards solution that can reduce the usually long and resource consuming customer onboarding and testing processes, for both corporates and banks.
Many corporates still perceive SWIFT to be only for the biggest companies. Why is this and what is SWIFT doing to change this misconception?
At its launch, 41 years ago, SWIFT was a service offered only to financial institutions. However, we began to receive corporate interest and created SWIFT for corporates in the early 2000s. Initially, the service was used primarily by large organisations because these companies had an immediate need to assist with their global expansion plans and the growing number of banking relationships they had to manage.
SWIFT for Corporates allows companies to access the SWIFT network and communicate with their banking partners using a standardised set of financial messages through a single gateway.
The market has therefore developed a perception that SWIFT is a service for large organisations – this is not the case. SWIFT for Corporates is a solution for companies of all sizes and we have worked hard to develop our services to suit the requirements of both large and small-to-medium sized corporates. For instance, we have launched Alliance Lite2 – a cloud based solution which allows corporates to access the SWIFT network without the need for any cumbersome and expensive in-house infrastructure. We have also partnered with a variety of Alliance Lite2 business application providers who have integrated SWIFT into their products, offering another connectivity option for corporates.
Also, it is worth noting that SWIFT is a not-for-profit organisation and as more members join we are able to reduce the cost of using the SWIFT network. As a result of this, and the new connectivity options, we have begun to see a lot more small-to-medium sized corporates join: 49% of corporates joining SWIFT since 2014 have a turnover of less than one billion USD.
Having been in Asia for eight years now how would you score SWIFT’s progress there? Are you seeing an increase in usage among corporates and is it more noticeable in any particular country?
When SWIFT for Corporates launched in Asia Pacific (APAC) in 2007, knowledge about our service was limited, aside from a handful of multinationals who were using us in the US and Europe. Over the past eight years we have been working tirelessly to build-up awareness by appearing at conferences, organising our proprietary events and also working with banks in the region to promote the solution. Overall this has been a success and the rate of corporate adoption has been pleasing and looks set to increase – for example the same number of corporates have joined SWIFT in Asia Pacific in the first half of 2015 as did in the whole of 2014.
Our 2020 strategy is a global initiative to expand our membership across all sectors. Corporate clients are an important pillar of this strategy and we aim to have 5,000 corporate groups on-boarded globally by 2020.
Traditionally, Singapore has been a strong market for us because it is a regional treasury hub where there are lots of multinationals who are using SWIFT globally. However, we are seeing a substantial uptake of the solution in other countries such as China, where the market is opening up and corporates are expanding abroad and looking for the best way to centralise connectivity to their banks.
What is the SWIFT 2020 strategy and what more needs to be done to drive further awareness and membership of SWIFT across Asia Pacific?
Our 2020 strategy is a global initiative to expand our membership across all sectors. Corporate clients are an important pillar of this strategy and we aim to have 5,000 corporate groups on-boarded globally by 2020. Greater uptake of the solution in APAC will play an important role in this and we will further promote our services by ensuring that more banks in the region are SWIFT ready and also by working more closely with local and regional banks in order to promote SWIFT to their clients.
Moreover, we are also developing new tools and services such as a cash management dashboard that allows corporates to use SWIFT to view their cash positions and bank statements – a solution primarily aimed at those companies that still rely on spreadsheets.
Finally, as a company more broadly, we are also looking to expand our offering. For instance, SWIFT is a well-established name in cross-border transactions, but we also want to begin working on a more domestic level – building Australia’s new domestic retail payment system is just the first step in this new vision and one that we hope will move SWIFT onto the next level.