Will SWIFT get SWIFTER with Blockchain?

SWIFT network

Some investors who have been paying attention to how blockchain is taking over traditional systems might still be surprised by one of the latest commercial organizations to offer blockchain technologies a shot in the arm.

Brand-new reports today from Fintech Futures and elsewhere show that the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication or SWIFT network is launching a blockchain proof-of-concept gateway called GPI Link based on services by blockchain startup R3.

“(Link) will connect GPI members to various trade platforms, enabling payment initiation, tracking, payer authentication and credit confirmation,” writes Henry Vilar this morning. “The gateway will enable the continuous monitoring and control of payment flows and the subsequent movement of goods by those trade platforms, while supporting APIs, Swift and ISO standards.”

Part of what’s really interesting about this deal is that SWIFT has often been referred to as a prime example of the old systems that stand to benefit from blockchain adoption.

In order to send money around the world, users utilize SWIFT transactions, in which banks have to independently verify that exchange of money. This can take days, and come with pretty hefty fees. The blockchain model would greatly expedite these types of transfers, and probably make them a lot cheaper for end users as well.

Another interesting bit of this particular move toward digital fintech is that in the midst of adopting this pilot, SWIFT CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt was involved in a joint panel with Brad Garlinghouse from Ripple, which is, in some ways, an informative optic.

“Leibbrandt was speaking for the first time in a joint panel with Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple — which has long touted itself as a blockchain competitor to SWIFT’s global interbank network,” writes Marie Huillet in Cointelegraph this morning.  “Garlinghouse had just recently commented in November 2018 that ‘what we are doing on a day-to-day basis is in fact taking over SWIFT.’” 

In describing the new initiative, Leibbrandt used several important buzzwords – “interoperability” and “openness” are for sure big goals for the enterprise blockchain community in general. 

As for Leibbrand’s comment that SWIFT is “exploring interconnectivity with a lot of things,” that idea is borne out by executives citing past pilots and in-house projects that will help the payment networks scale its innovations.

You can also see how SWIFT top people rubbing shoulders with executives at Ripple represents a thawing of relations when it comes to interaction between the blockchain powerhouse and the old-school transfer network.

That’s good news for people who routinely send money abroad, or receive it across international borders, but it’s also good news for coin investors. As Bitcoin languishes below $4000 (today WELL below $4000,) investors are hungry for proof that eventually, blockchain adoption will raise all coin boats. Keep an eye on how SWIFT and other long-standing traditions are apt to embrace the blockchain revolution.