Forex

SWIFT Payment: A Business Owner's Guide

What is a SWIFT Payment?

SWIFT payments are transactions processed through an intermediary bank, enabling the global exchange of electronic payments. Unlike direct fund transfers or a banking system, the SWIFT network transmits payment orders between banks using SWIFT codes. It acts as a mechanism for swift, accurate, and secure international money transfers.

This financial service establishes a global network that accelerates international business processes and strengthens global connections. In November 2022, SWIFT reported an average of 44.8 million FIN messages daily, with a growth rate exceeding 7.1% compared to the previous year.

The SWIFT payment system allows individuals and businesses to send and receive international funds through electronic or credit card transactions, even if they use different banks. The network serves as a secure platform for financial messaging, acting as a conduit between banks.

Working Process Of SWIFT Payment

SWIFT was originally conceived to create a more efficient and secure communication system among banks, particularly for international payments. The term "communicate" is consistently used because SWIFT essentially acts as a messenger, facilitating swift and secure exchanges between banks. It's important to note that SWIFT itself does not involve the direct transfer of actual money; rather, it serves as a conduit for transmitting messages containing payment instructions from the issuing bank (the payor) to the remitting bank (the beneficiary/receiver).

During a SWIFT transfer, participating banks execute fund movements between accounts, relying on an underlying network of Nostro and Vostro accounts. These accounts are specifically opened by banks with each other to exclusively facilitate SWIFT transactions.



How to Make a SWIFT Payment Transaction

  1. To initiate a SWIFT Payment transaction, follow these steps:
  2. Contact your bank: Provide your bank with all the necessary details for the transaction, including the recipient's name, bank name, account number, amount, currency, and any other relevant information.
  3. Complete the forms: Your bank will supply you with the required forms to initiate the SWIFT transaction. These forms will inquire about details regarding the sender and receiver of the money, the transfer amount, and the currency involved.
  4. Make the payment: After completing the forms, you'll be required to make the payment. Typically, this involves transferring funds from your account to your bank's account.
  5. Wait for confirmation: Once the transaction is initiated, exercise patience. Wait for your bank to confirm that the money has been successfully sent. The duration of this confirmation process can vary, taking a few hours or even days, depending on the banks involved and the complexity of the transaction.


Working of a SWIFT Payment Transaction

  • SWIFT transactions may involve significant costs, especially for smaller transactions, due to fees and charges from multiple participating banks. Providing accurate and complete information is crucial to avoid processing delays or errors.
  • Financial institutions use SWIFT to securely transmit information and instructions through a standardized code system. Despite playing a vital role in global financial infrastructure, it's essential to understand that SWIFT is not a financial institution itself. Instead, it facilitates secure and efficient communication between its member institutions without holding or transferring assets.
  • In November 2022, more than 11,000 global SWIFT member institutions collectively sent an average of 44.8 million messages daily through the network.
  • SWIFT assigns a unique code, known as a bank identifier code (BIC), to each financial organization. This code may also be referred to as a SWIFT code, SWIFT ID, or ISO 9362 code. For example, the Italian bank UniCredit Banca, headquartered in Milan, has the eight-character SWIFT code UNCRITMM. The first four characters represent the institute code (UNCR for UniCredit Banca), the next two characters indicate the country code (IT for Italy), the following two characters denote the location/city code (MM for Milan), and the last three characters are optional but can be used to assign codes to individual branches.

SWIFT transactions can incur significant costs, especially for smaller transactions, as they often involve fees and charges from multiple participating banks. It's crucial to provide accurate and complete information to avoid processing delays or errors.


Financial institutions utilize SWIFT for securely transmitting information and instructions through a standardized code system. Despite its essential role in global financial infrastructure, it's important to note that SWIFT is not a financial institution itself. Rather, 

SWIFT facilitates secure and efficient communication between its member institutions without holding or transferring assets.

In November 2022, over 11,000 global SWIFT member institutions collectively sent an average of 44.8 million messages daily through the network.

SWIFT assigns a unique code to each financial organization, known as a bank identifier code (BIC), which may also be referred to as a SWIFT code, SWIFT ID, or ISO 9362 code. For instance, the Italian bank UniCredit Banca, headquartered in Milan, has the eight-character SWIFT code UNCRITMM, where the first four characters represent the institute code (UNCR for UniCredit Banca), the next two characters indicate the country code (IT for Italy), the following two characters denote the location/city code (MM for Milan), and the last three characters are optional but can be used to assign codes to individual branches.

Consider this scenario: A customer intends to send money to his friend in Venice, Italy, and decides to do so through a local Bank of America branch. Armed with his Italian friend's account number and the branch details for UniCredit Banca in Venice, including the unique SWIFT code, the customer initiates the transaction.

Bank of America utilizes the secure SWIFT network to send a payment transfer message to the UniCredit Banca branch. Once UniCredit Banca receives the SWIFT message alerting them to the incoming payment, they proceed to clear and credit the funds to the Italian friend's account.

It's important to acknowledge that, while SWIFT is effective in facilitating communication, it functions exclusively as a messaging system. SWIFT does not hold any funds or securities, and it does not manage client accounts.

SWIFT payment system Ownership

SWIFT functions as a cooperative owned by its members, consisting of specific financial institutions globally. Oversight of SWIFT is handled by the central banks of the Group of Ten (G-10) countries, including Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Belgium, situated in Europe, takes the lead in overseeing SWIFT, with support from other members such as the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Given the widespread dependence on SWIFT for fast, seamless, and secure communication, countries are highly motivated to maintain positive relations with the organization. While central banks from G-10 countries supervise SWIFT, it remains a neutral entity operating for the collective benefit of all its member institutions.

The views expressed in the blogs on this page are solely the opinions of the authors and do not constitute expert advice. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. We disclaim any liability for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of data or profits arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this website.

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