The international payments network Swift has announced a major push to bring instant payments to small and medium-sized enterprises.
Swift says it’s looking to become a global leader in account-to-account and business-to-business transactions, taking on credit giants Visa and Mastercard as well as emerging fintech companies like Ripple.
“At its March 2020 meeting, the SWIFT Board and Executive endorsed ambitious plans for SWIFT to support financial institutions’ payments and securities businesses and make the SWIFT platform richer, smarter and faster. SWIFT will enable transactions to move instantly and frictionless from account-to-account anywhere in the world across the end-to-end payments chain.”
According to the fintech news outlet Finextra, the platform expansion means that Swift “will support financial institutions to strengthen their positions in B2B payments and capture new volume in SME and consumer segments.”
The vice president and global industry lead at the consulting firm CGI, Andy Schmidt, says the move is likely the most significant announcement from Swift since the 1970s.
“Perhaps driven by the fact that as Swift is owned by the banks, the change of direction might enable the banks to take control of the interconnectivity of new instant payments schemes which are either live or rolling out all over the world.”
Ripple has long targeted small and medium-sized enterprises as a high-growth revenue opportunity, using its own payment messaging system as well as the crypto asset XRP.
In a 2019 white paper on small business payments, the San Francisco crypto and payments startup said SMEs represent a dynamic and growing force in the cross-border payments industry.
“The opportunity in SME B2B cross-border payments is especially strong in emerging markets. About two-thirds of these payments are from developed countries, while profitability and growth is twice as high in emerging markets as in the developed world.
SME cross-border payments revenues in emerging markets have reached as much as $100-150 billion annually, according to Ripple’s analysis with data from FXC Intelligence and Kapronasia.”
It appears Swift’s new strategy will be under development for the next few years. It plans to begin implementing the payments expansion by the end of 2022.
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