Swift remains a non-profit co-operative, with 11,000 members and facilitating payments worth an eye-popping $1.5tn a day. It does this not by actually moving money, but by enabling banks to dispatch messages that credit or debit their accounts as payments occur. However, it faces a potentially vicious battle due to the rise of cryptocurrencies and the technology behind them.
Some of Swift’s own members are also challenging it. JPMorgan, for example, is developing a particularly bold blockchain initiative system called Onyx with a messaging system called Liink. This is already moving “billions each day’, according to officials. Meanwhile, the Russian and Chinese governments are reportedly creating rival platforms, since countries subject to US sanctions, such as Iran, have occasionally been excluded from the network. (Gottfried Leibbrandt, the former Swift head and co-author of The Pay Off, recently explained to an FT forum that while the utility is technically independent, Washington has sanction power because half of Swift’s payment flows are in dollars.)