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SWIFT Extends Sanctions Screening Service To Cover All Financial Messaging

Global financial-messaging network SWIFT has extended its Sanctions Screening service to support all messages used in financial transactions, regardless of format or financial network, according to Cash & Treasury Management File.

SWIFT introduced Sanctions Screening in 2012 as its first financial-crime compliance offering. Nearly 300 institutions in 97 countries now subscribe to the service, including 15 central banks.

Sanctions Screening is a hosted service that checks the SWIFT network's messages in real time against international sanctions lists. Transactions can be screened against more than 30 of the most important sanctions lists, including lists from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, the UK's HM Treasury, the European Union, and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. SWIFT performs sanctions list updates at no additional charge, eliminating a major source of cost and risk for customers.

Users can screen all transaction formats, including SEPA and Fedwire, as well as transactions sent over networks other than SWIFT. The extended service also enables greater flexibility and back-office integration, addressing the needs of midsize banks and other users that have more complex business and operational requirements.

"Sanctions Screening is a community-based solution that makes transaction screening simple and affordable, even for the smallest institutions," said Nicolas Stuckens, Head of Sanctions Compliance Services for SWIFT, in a prepared statement. "Extending this service is a natural next step for SWIFT in our vision to support the evolving financial crime compliance needs of the industry."

"Simple" is the key word in this case. About 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies are already connected to the SWIFT network, well below the 90 percent that could make good use of it for a variety of financial-messaging services. But widely varying message formats make getting onboard with SWIFT highly complex, as are documentation requirements for large corporates, which almost always use multiple banks.

Corporates are also leery of outsourcing anti-money-laundering, anti-terrorism and sanctions requirements, because the consequences of a third party's failure will still fall on the big company.

However, banks are signing up for the Sanctions Screening service more enthusiastically, especially in corruption-prone areas where central banks are pushing it. In Africa, more than 80 customers -- including seven central banks -- use the service. The Central Bank of Nigeria has mandated use of SWIFT's Sanctions Screening by the country's banks and full implementation should be complete by the end of this month, according to Ventures Africa.

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