Swift KYC registry opens to corporates

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By:
Kanika Saigal
Published on:

Swift hopes its know your customer (KYC) registry, now open to corporate partners, will succeed in ways in which others have failed, given the institution's not-for profit and cooperative position.

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Swift opened its KYC registry to corporate groups on Monday, allowing them to manage and share KYC data with banking partners across the world.

The initiative follows other similar products launched by KYC.com, Refinitiv and Bloomberg.

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Bart Claeys,
Swift

Swift is confident their registry will thrive, given the success it has had with correspondent banking partners, says Bart Claeys, head of KYC and reference data at Swift.

At Swift, we have the ability to define and set standards, and given that we are not a commercial venture but one built on cooperation, we have a level of trust with our corporate and banking partners that other commercial ventures may not have been able to achieve,” he says.

KYC as a function is not new. All institutions have policies and procedures to implement this, and it takes time for institutions to evaluate and feel comfortable with a registry such as ours and integrate it into their on-boarding or client review processes.”


Banks came on board when it became apparent that there was no commercial benefit to fighting fraud and compliance alone – working together was key 
 - Bart Claeys, Swift

Alex Tame, global head of partners and content integration at Dow Jones Risk & Compliance, agrees, saying: “There is a reputational benefit to being part of the Swift registry and the risk for corporates getting involved in an established and proven product is much lower than something starting from scratch.

“A utility such as the KYC registry needs time, effort and resources from all stakeholders to come to fruition and as such there is no short-term return on investment. In fact, even if the product is successful, it can take a long time before it can offer efficiencies and cost-savings its participants are looking for.”

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Alex Tame,
Dow Jones Risk
& Compliance

Tame adds: “This is why other similar ventures run by private companies haven’t been as successful.”

Dow Jones Risk & Compliance provides several risk and regulatory data products to Swift, including adverse media, sanctions ownership and politically exposed persons content, integrating into screening tools and augmenting their own data.

There are also savings to be made through using the platform.

“KYC is a vital process in the fight against financial crime and terrorist financing, but inefficiencies can cause this process to drag on for weeks or even months as banks collect the information they need to confirm whether they can do business with a particular entity,” says Andy Schmidt, vice-president, global financial services at technology consulting firm CGI.

“These delays cost both banks and corporates as valuable opportunities are pushed back, if not lost, due to these time-consuming processes. Allowing corporates to participate in Swift’s KYC registry will reduce this expensive regulatory friction while still ensuring the safeguards that our financial networks and regulators require.”

Trial period

Eighteen corporates were included in the trial period, which began in February, including BMW, Spotify and Unilever. Swift hopes that the 2,000-plus corporate group members of Swift will take advantage of the new registry.

“Each corporate has a number of subsidiaries or entities,” says Swift’s Claeys. “Not only at group level, at individual entity level, so in reality, our registry could reach tens of thousands of corporates across the globe.”

Via the registry, corporates that work with multiple banking partners across the globe in a variety of regulatory jurisdictions will no longer have to provide KYC data in a number of different formats, often through bilateral exchanges, to meet the regulatory requirements of each bank partner.

Although there isn’t any qualitative data available yet to show how much time will be saved, Claeys believes that the registry will cut KYC process from days and weeks to hours, given the feedback he has had from the correspondent banks using the platform.

The registry was launched in 2014. It allows all Swift bank members to access and exchange documents for on-boarding purposes, traditionally a labour-intensive and lengthy process that banks conducted in silos. To date, more than 5,500 financial institutions have signed up to the registry.

“Banks came on board when it became apparent that there was no commercial benefit to fighting fraud and compliance alone – working together was key,” says Claeys. “Corporates then started showing interest in using the registry two years ago after strong support from the banks.”

Blockchain

Swift has also released a series of APIs that plug into the KYC platform, which allows banks to pull information from the registry into their own propriety systems to enhance the way they use the data.

“The platform is constantly evolving, but transferring the registry onto blockchain will be off the cards for now,” says Claeys.

“While KYC is a good use case for blockchain, there were few viable options when we launched the product in 2014. Moreover, the registry still needs a central authority – an authority to monitor standards and validity of the data collected – which cannot be done via blockchain, given its decentralized nature.”

Claeys adds: “We will continue to explore blockchain over different use cases, but for now the centralized solution is a good one.”