What is SWIFT?

SWIFT stands for Society for World-wide Inter-bank Financial Telecommunications and is an international organisation. It provides means of secure communications between Banks and its members. Membership to the society is regulated and only vetted applicants are permitted to use the system at varying access levels.

It ensures that banks can communicate with each other and provided validation and verification checks on their communications. It operates largely as a database of varying levels of communication and transmittance of financial documents and messages. Physical documents cannot be sent by SWIFT.

To be able to send and receive authenticated SWIFT messages one must be accepted and subscribed to the Society.

Banks will have a trained SWIFT operator responsible for the management of SWIFT messages, both out-bound and in-bound. In smaller Private Banks, this may be one single individual. Larger banks will have SWIFT operator departments.

Each SWIFT message will have a Message Type (or MT) depending on the database field. For example, MT 100 relates to cash transfers and the sending of client funds between banks. MT 700 relates to Documentary Credits and Guarantees.

It is important to not complicate or refer to these SWIFT Message Types in professional communications since it will not concern either the client or recipient and is meant for inter-bank communication only.