SWIFT publishes paper on digitising trade: the time is now

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  • SWIFT processes over USD 2 trillion in global trade and records a 72.4% increase in usage of its Digital Trade Channel solution in 2020
  • Paper draws on SWIFT data and community views to identify key elements that are needed to facilitate trade digitisation

Dubai: SWIFT, the world’s leading provider of secure financial messaging services, published a paper that examines the impact of COVID-19 on international trade, while also discussing the key challenges and enablers of trade digitisation. The paper leverages SWIFT data to outline how efforts to digitise trade could reduce friction in global commerce and translate into economic growth.

According to SWIFT Watch, documentary trade finance had declined by as much as 49% week on week by late April 2020. It took the rest of the year for volumes to rebound, with documentary trade ending the year down 11%. Despite the overall drop in global trade last year, SWIFT processed more than US$2 trillion in documentary trade in 2020 while usage of its Digital Trade Channel solution increased by over 72%, illustrating the appetite among corporations for digitisation. 

In noting the challenges faced by efforts to digitise trade, the paper considers how, in addition to technology, legal harmonisation, standardisation and interoperability will be crucial to facilitating digital trade in an ecosystem that is characterised by a myriad of actors, technologies, standards, rules, regulations and legal jurisdictions.  

As a global, neutral co-operative and an integral part of the world’s financial system, SWIFT is well- positioned to lend its expertise in these matters to support the industry in tackling trade inefficiencies in a cost-efficient, interoperable, and scaled manner. 

Commenting on the findings of the report, Louise Taylor-Digby, Head of Trade Strategy at SWIFT, said: “The pandemic has underlined the need to accelerate the digitisation of trade and we will support these efforts by expanding our capabilities beyond messaging and documentary trade, while building on our role as a standards authority, our API capabilities and our partner strategy. We are working towards a future ecosystem, one that offers the community access both proprietary and third-party trade services via the SWIFT platform, while leaning on our identity, security, and standards protocols. This is backed by our ability to reach over 11,000 institutions and the 4 billion customer accounts they serve.”

About SWIFT:

SWIFT is a global member owned cooperative and the world’s leading provider of secure financial messaging services. We provide our community with a platform for messaging and standards for communicating, and we offer products and services to facilitate access and integration, identification, analysis and regulatory compliance. 

Our messaging platform, products and services connect more than 11,000 banking and securities organisations, market infrastructures and corporate customers in more than 200 countries and territories. While SWIFT does not hold funds or manage accounts on behalf of customers, we enable our global community of users to communicate securely, exchanging standardised financial messages in a reliable way, thereby supporting global and local financial flows, as well as trade and commerce all around the world. 

As their trusted provider, we relentlessly pursue operational excellence; we support our community in addressing cyber threats; and we continually seek ways to lower costs, reduce risks and eliminate operational inefficiencies. Our products and services support our community’s access and integration, business intelligence, reference data and financial crime compliance needs. SWIFT also brings the financial community together – at global, regional and local levels – to shape market practice, define standards and debate issues of mutual interest or concern. 

Headquartered in Belgium, SWIFT’s international governance and oversight reinforces the neutral, global character of its cooperative structure. SWIFT’s global office network ensures an active presence in all the major financial centres.