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SWIFT Explores Blockchain Tech to Boost Interbank Communication

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is a global system that allows banks to make cross-border transactions and payments worldwide. Founded in 1973 and headquartered in Belgium, SWIFT serves as the main messaging network for the initiation of international payments. Like several corporations and governments, SWIFT is now considering incorporating blockchain into its network.

The global payment system first looked at blockchain five years ago, announcing in January 2017 that it was launching a Proof of Concept (PoC) to determine whether banks could use blockchain technology to enhance the real-time reconciliation of their Nostro databases and optimize their global liquidity. SWIFT wanted to figure out if distributed ledgers could allow banks to lower their costs and operational risks by helping them reconcile their Nostro accounts in real time and more efficiently.

Half a decade later, SWIFT is now exploring how blockchain can boost interbank communication by speeding up data transmission for corporate actions, dividend payments, exchange offers and mergers. Currently, the global payment system has 11,000 financial institution members around the world and facilitates $1.5 trillion worth of transactions every day.

It handles data transmission by passing it through a variety of intermediaries before it reaches investment custodians, asset managers and brokers. This method isn’t 100% effective, sometimes resulting in erroneous or contradictory data and forcing the end users to manually sort, compare and reconcile information themselves. Although the system provides a crucial service, it has received criticism for being too slow and costly.

With blockchain, however, this process can be much more efficient and streamlined as the distributed ledgers always validate data before registering it. SWIFT chief innovation officer Tom Zschach says the organization is interested in innovation and emerging technology such as distributed ledger technology and blockchain. SWIFT has launched the pilot program to test the viability of blockchain technology that will include major financial institutions, including Citigroup, Northern Trust and Vanguard.

Enterprise technology firm Symbiont will provide its Assembly blockchain platform for use in the trial. SWIFT will translate corporate action data into a single format before uploading it to Sybmiont’s blockchain. The platform will then compare this data and create a single record that can be shared among all participating players.

Symbiont CEO Mark Smith says leveraging a blockchain solution allows the company to accept all the data from SWIFT and use smart contracts to internally normalize the data and compare it rather than forcing the end users to reconcile the data themselves. The program will test blockchain technology with a small group of people and provide additional feedback by the end of the month.

With such major institutions such as SWIFT giving blockchain technology serious thought, industry actors such as Stronghold Digital Mining Inc. (NASDAQ: SDIG) are likely to attract plenty of interest from those who have been on the sidelines waiting to see whether this new technology will gain mainstream acceptance from large organizations and institutions.

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