August 30, 2005

Few can argue with the idea that the simplest solution is often the best one. Why, then, when it comes to commercial payments, do banks offer their corporate clients a dizzying array of standards and formats for their payments needs? After all, the speed at which global business moves today demands that the quickest, most-efficient solution be employed in almost any situation.

Welcome to Bank Systems & Technology's 2005 Special Report on global payments. In the pages that follow, BS&T looks at the push toward simplicity in the payments marketplace. From processing systems and the relationships among banks and their corporate clients (page 20) to electronic trading (page 29) to euro-denominated payment systems and the Single Euro Payments Area (page 34), the industry is undergoing a slow coalescence that goes beyond the establishment of standards.

What is bringing about such change? According to industry insiders, in addition to cost cutting, much of the transformation in attitude toward payments can be attributed to an increasingly vocal client community. After all, when commercial customers clamor for more streamlined services, banks had better listen.

Toward the top of many corporations' wish lists is a desire to become a part of a universal payments network, such as SWIFT. On page 33, SWIFT CEO Leonard Schrank discusses with BS&T the evolving role of the global payments alliance and his vision for SWIFT beyond a messaging infrastructure. SWIFT would be the go-to organization for keeping tabs on the entire transaction life cycle, from initiation to conclusion, he relates, and it might even help you cut your IT spending.

These issues and more are sure to be the topics of hot discussion at this year's Sibos conference in Copenhagen (Sept. 5-9), as well as on BS&T's new blog ( So, consider BS&T's payments special an appetizer to the main course. And remember: Keep it simple.

Commercial Payments: From Many, One
Banks and corporations both want to unify the way money is moved. But achieving a standard payments process won't be easy.

In an environment where competitive advantage often is found through differentiation, uniformity isn't always a good thing. But in the case of global payments, it's just what the industry needs.

The 5 Percent Solution
Leonard Schrank, CEO, SWIFT
IT budgets need paring, and SWIFT can be the knife, claims CEO.

The United Banks of Europe
Gilbert Lichter, Secretary General, Euro Banking Association; CEO, EBA CLEARING
One way or another, Europe heads toward a Single Euro Payments Area.

Making Time for Real Time
Gerard Hamerlind, Global Head of Sales, Cable & Wireless RTN
Cable & Wireless makes gains in attracting information providers to its real-time data feed.