Business Solutions

How The Swift System Works

If you’ve transferred money overseas, there’s a hundred percent chance that you have used the SWIFT system. Nowadays, it’s very fast and convenient to visit a bank and transfer money anywhere in the world. Behind the scenes, this actually happens via a secured transfer system called the SWIFT system.

This system is an extensive network to send messages used by banks to receive and send information on money transfers accurately, quickly, and securely. This article will discuss what a SWIFT system is and how it works.

What is SWIFT?

SWIFT is actually an acronym that is short for “Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications.” To put it simply, it is a global network for messaging among financial institutions to securely transmit instructions and information via a standard set of Bank Swift Codes.

The SWIFT system was the answer to give the world a universal, secure way to send and receive money from one country to another. It provides a secured network for at least 10,000 financial institutions in 212 different countries to do financial transactions.

Who uses the SWIFT system?

At the start, SWIFT only allowed and designed the network to facilitate communication about Treasury transactions only. However, since the system was very robust, it was scalable and was used to provide services for different financial institutions all over the world.

These financial institutions include the following:

  • Banking Institutions
  • Trading Institutions
  • Brokerage Houses
  • Security Dealings
  • Asset Management
  • Foreign Exchange Centers
  • Clearing Houses
  • Depository Centers
  • Corporate Business Centers
  • Exchanges
  • Participants in the Treasury Market
  • Service Providers in the Treasury Market
  • Money Brokerage Centers

How does one use the SWIFT system?

The SWIFT system doesn’t transfer your money. Instead, it acts as the bridge between banks to allow money transfers. It sends payment orders between institution accounts using what is called the SWIFT code.

A unique code is assigned to each financial institution with eight to eleven characters, and this is what institutions call the bank identifier code, Swift Codes, SWIFT ID, or ISO 9362 code.

To give you a better understanding, here is a scenario. For example, you want to send $20 from your bank account in the United States to a bank in Singapore. There are two ways that this transaction can take place using SWIFT:

  • Both banks have a direct relationship

If both banks have a direct relationship with each other, your bank will send a SWIFT message to the bank in Singapore informing them of the transfer. Once the SWIFT message is received, the transfer can happen directly between the two banks.

  • Banks have no relationship

If the banks don’t know each other, the transfer has to go through an intermediary bank to facilitate the transfer. Your bank will send a SWIFT message to the bank in Singapore informing them about the incoming transfer. Since both banks don’t hold accounts with one another, SWIFT will look for an intermediary where both banks have an account. Once an intermediary bank is found, the funds are transferred within the day.

What kind of transactions are allowed in the SWIFT system?

Aside from bank transfers, SWIFT also offers other services such as the following:

  • Business Intelligence

SWIFT also offers services enabling financial institutions to have a dashboard and reports on the monitoring of messages, activity, and trade flow. The reports are also made available to be filtered based on country, message, types, region, and other parameters.

  • Compliance Services

Since financial crime is also prevalent, SWIFT offers services like Know Your Customer (KYC), sanctions, and anti-money laundering. These services will prevent you from getting fraudulent transactions or illegal transfers.

  • Applications

SWIFT enables access to applications that allow real-time instruction for matching payment instructions, treasury and forex instructions, clearing instructions, and derivative transactions as well.

Are there any disadvantages for the SWIFT system?

One of the challenges for the SWIFT is posed for clients with a huge volume of transactions since the system requires entry of manual instructions. For a large volume of transactions, it might not be practical to enter details and instructions one by one. Not to worry, as automation for the SWIFT system creates a faster way of processing and transmitting a large volume of transactions to their clients.


The SWIFT system has made it not only possible to transfer funds globally, but also makes it all more accessible for all, while making sure it’s secured. Right now, it continues to dominate the market when it comes to overseas fund transfers because of its efficiency and effectiveness.




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