B2B Payments

With Big Data, FIs Gain Insight And Edge

In the movement toward cross-border and FX transparency, Big Data can play a big role — but only if finance executives can use that data quickly and effectively.

To that end, SWIFT has launched the SWIFT Watch Banking Analytics Premium platform, through which banks can sift through the constant deluge of data to analyze payments data, in an effort to realize new revenue opportunities and reduce costs. The Premium service is part of the firm’s Watch for Banking Services reporting and analytical technology.

Astrid Thorsen, who heads business intelligence solutions at SWIFT, told PYMNTS that financial institutions are inundated with information, at times so much so that it is hard to pinpoint just what it all means. “Much of that data is unstructured,” she said, “and there is a real need for banks to get not just insight but the right insight into how they are functioning in the industry and how they compare versus peers."

Key to the new analytics service is the ability to look within message content to examine where improvements can be made, said Thorsen. Examining messaging content can help strengthen payments speed and find where inaccuracies can be addressed. “Most [messaging] flows are automated, but there are exceptions,” said Thorsen, as she noted that some financial institutions do not choose automated messaging for some payments functions.

The Analytics Premium tool, said Thorsen, offers the ability to track and ensure that the right messaging is applied for the correct purpose and that information is delivered to correspondent banks in a timely manner — this is especially applicable to FX. If messages are not delivered properly, said Thorsen, inefficiencies lead to increased costs and thus the ability, via Watch Analytics, to drill down into message types, such as treasury, trade finance and payments across currencies. In the meantime, SWIFT continues to expand its support of ISO 20022 for standardization across messaging.

As relates to payments, FX and cross-border transactions, the “payload data” can be increased, with information spanning charges and order flow between initial ordering countries and end beneficiary countries, and also details on letters of credit. Message types can be segmented into ranges of size, such as a $500 to $2,500 “bucket."

Sifting through the data is one thing; presenting that data so that it can be used for competitive advantage is another. Thorsen said that SWIFT’s Analytics Premium lets users see where they stand via dashboards, not just in isolation, but benchmarked across the industry and the more than 150 FIs, with 1,700 users that are on Watch. Such benchmarking lets users see, graphically, how reporting and other activity stacks up both against peers and the industry in general.

Thorsen noted that the business visuals are what helps bring data toward actionable ideas — by means of dashboards, each with a specific purpose, such as for examining whether messages have been blocked and how that may compare to an average rate across peers. And in using that data, for example, if it is found that blocked messages are higher than the industry at large, then addressing that issue may unlock additional revenue opportunities.

"Most customers prefer to query the data themselves,” said Thorsen, and run their own series of reports and benchmarks, with an emphasis on reducing costs. She offered up one example in how Big Data, rendered effectively, can point the way toward optimized performance. Consider a bank based in Belgium that does business in Vietnam but has no correspondent FI in that country. In the meantime, each time the European enterprise wants to transact in Vietnam, it must go through, say, Thailand, which may add time (and costs) to transactions. Through the analytics offered up through SWIFT and benchmarking that may show peers growing relatively faster in Vietnam (and grabbing revenue), that Belgian bank may find it a boon to establish a direct correspondent relationship there. In other words, this is straight-through processing that can help improve operating results.


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Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The July 2019 AML/KYC Tracker provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.


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