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Swift Sanctions Screening Service Falls Below Big Bank Grade

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Swift’s sanctions screening service, which is due to go live in December this year, failed to win interest from large financial services organisations when first mooted and has instead been geared towards small and medium sized banks. Brigitte De Wilde, head of anti-money laundering and sanctions for Swift, explains to Reference Data Review that a study of a sanctions utility for large organisations did not deliver a business case for larger banks that are looking for more than a standard service and want in-house flexibility to change sanction settings.

De Wilde indicates that many large banks have already developed their own in-house solutions for sanctions. Accordingly, instead, Swift will market its service to organisations that handle 50 to 1,000 transactions that must be screened every day: the market slice where it found most interest for a simple service that allows smaller companies to comply with sanctions, while avoiding the cost and time consumed in keeping up with frequently updated sanctions lists.

The Swift service will be based on a filtering application and list update service provided by Sword FircoSoft, which won the business in a competitive RFP process, and will be offered on a subscription basis. Pricing has yet to be finalised, although De Wilde suggests it will fall between the €2,000 to €3,000 cost of a typical manual service and the cost for a bank to run its own instance of sanction screening software in-house.

Users of the service will be able to request selected Swift FIN messages to be routed to the centralised screening application, where they will be filtered in real time and checked against customers’ selected sanctions lists. If there is no match to the sanctions list, the message will be delivered as usual. If there is a match, customers will be asked to instruct Swift whether to release, abort or flag the message using an alert management system.

“The important thing here is that Swift does not make any calls on transactions. The customer keeps the decision process within its own organisation, reviewing any alerts through the sanctions service portal and deciding whether alerts are false positive or true positive and require transactions to be stopped and then aborted,” explains De Wilde.

The timing of the service introduction allows for Swift’s annual update of standards in November and De Wilde expects good take-up. She acknowledges competition from services offered by bureaus connected to the Swift network, but concludes: “This is zero footprint for clients and Swift probably exceeds levels of customer trust found elsewhere.”

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