The Standardised Corporate Environment (SCORE) is the newest access model for corporates from messaging network SWIFT. It is intended as the next evolutionary step on from the previous access model, the Member-Administered Closed User Group (MA-CUG). After a three-month trial with companies including Microsoft and GE, SCORE went live in January 2007. Since then 30 banks and 15 corporates have joined the service.
In the past, corporates and non-financial institutions have had limited access to the SWIFT network. MA-CUGs were introduced by SWIFT in 2001 and allowed corporates to communicate securely with their banks over SWIFTNet. However, adoption levels were affected by the fact that corporates needed to join each of their bank’s MA-CUGs – one MA-CUG for each bank communicated with. This proved time-consuming and costly.
The introduction of SCORE is a progression from MA-CUGs, bringing more advantages for corporates and their banks. SCORE allows corporates to communicate with all SWIFT member banks through a connection to a single closed user group. This reduces the connectivity costs formerly associated with MA-CUGs. As communications between corporates and their banks become more streamlined, liquidity management can also be improved due to the fact information from transactions with several banks can be received quickly and viewed in a standardised format, helping corporates assess their liquidity more effectively.
SCORE offers corporates access to a number of services including SWIFTNet FIN, SWIFT’s messaging service with message validation to ensure messages are properly formatted. FileAct, the file transfer system, is also available under the new access model and can be used in real-time or store and forward mode. Under SCORE, FileAct is able to support transfer payments data in bulk in non-SWIFT formats. However, the services provided to corporates remain the responsibility of each bank – so a service provided by one bank may not be provided by another.
SWIFT regulations state that companies hoping to sign up to SCORE must be listed on a regulated stock exchange in a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) country. The stipulation of membership to the FATF, an inter-government organisation which develops and promotes international legislation to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, is to help SCORE maintain a high level of security. However, the exclusion of privately held companies not listed on a regulated stock exchange lowers the numbers of corporates who are eligible.
Corporates will also have to consider hardware and software costs for connection to SWIFT’s SCORE network. Costs arise from subscription fees and data volume charges for FileAct and transactional volume charges for FIN messaging. SCORE may prove more beneficial to larger companies with high messaging and transactions volumes. Companies with more modest volumes will have to weigh up the costs and the benefits of joining.
As more corporates join SWIFT, the number of available services will increase. However, corporate–tocorporate and bank-to-bank communications will remain prohibited.
SWIFT has come a long way in allowing corporate access. MA-CUGs went some way towards addressing the problem and SCORE goes further still. However, SWIFT continues to approach the question of corporate access with caution, and the restrictions imposed on corporates wishing to join SCORE are likely to remain in place for a while longer.