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A false sense of securities?

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Swift’s Sibos event in Boston in early October was the biggest ever (don’t they always say that?) and there was no shortage of involvement from the enterprise data management suppliers and some of the bigger reference data vendors. Even the delegates seemed pretty interested in all things data related, as the strong turnout for the panel discussion on implementing EDM demonstrated. The sessions on corporate actions also played to packed houses, with late-coming delegates spilling over to second rooms to watch the action on giant TV screens.

The question was, though, where were the reference data announcements from Swift in all this? Yes, it’s confirmed it’s going to be issuing collective investment vehicle identification codes (CIVICs) – some 40,000 of them – and creating a CIVIC repository on Swiftnet, but we knew that already: Reference Data Review first brought you news of this as far back as September 2006. But of its plans for a standing settlement instruction (SSI) service, alone or in conjunction with incumbent SSI player Omgeo, there was not a word – despite an announcement being hinted at throughout the year by Swift executives, most notably and most recently by the new Swift CEO himself Lazaro Campos (Reference Data Review, September 2007).

To be fair, Swift’s initiative to build a reference data repository on Swiftnet was always going to span not only securities reference data but payments reference data, and on the payments side the co-operative has been pretty active all year, driven in particular by the demands of SEPA (the Single Euro Payments Area, migration to which begins at the end of January next year).

But could this seemingly faster progress on the payments reference data side be one indicator of something more concerning about Swift’s future focus for securities market participants? Some Swift insiders seem to think so. A number expressed their concerns to us in Boston that there are no securities champions on the new executive Campos has put together to support him in his leadership of the co-operative. Campos has made no secret of the fact that he has ditched the Securities Industry Division, creating instead one Markets Division to cover all verticals, and relying on granular securities expertise rather than nominating a securities-focused leader to take Swift forward in securities. Not everyone buys this strategy, it seems, and there are fears that without a senior champion, the work that has gone in during recent years to bring Swift’s penetration in securities up to the same level as it has on the payments side could end up coming to nought.

The disparity between Swift’s focus on payments and its focus on securities may not be a huge concern from a pure reference data point of view. Its ideas about helping to streamline delivery of and access to data sources of different kinds are probably nice-to-haves rather than must-haves for the industry, and in areas where it is definitely required to do something – such as clean up the BICs for use in transaction reporting under MiFID – it is. But the implications for transaction processing efficiency in the securities markets more broadly could be more severe. Some of the securities-specific services Swift has created in recent years and months – for funds processing, for corporate actions, for MiFID transaction reporting – depend for their true success and value on bringing new participants into the Swift community.

If securities players don’t perceive that Swift is committed to their industry, they may well wonder why they should commit to Swift.

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