Debating Transformation

SWIFT's Sibos conference this year shows its continued growth and importance, 38 years after its creation.

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Much has changed since 1978, when SWIFT organized its first Sibos conference in Brussels with 300 participants.Since then, Sibos has gained in relevance, attendance and geographical presence. A year after the Singapore conference, which attracted over 8,200 participants, these annual “Olympic games” (without medals) of transaction banking and financial services reconvenes this year in Geneva, Switzerland, for a third time.

This year’s theme, “Transforming the Landscape,” highlights what the financial services industry faces: dramatic change. Discussion of payments and securities industry trends in general will follow four main areas—banking, compliance, culture and securities—with an eye on innovation and new technologies. Hundreds of exhibitors will be displaying their wares and looking to arrange one-on-one meetings.

A majority of last year’s attendees worked for commercial banks (30%) or tech vendors and consultants (23%), followed by a strong contingent of corporates (7%) and three blocks of 5% each representing investment banks, commercial banks and people involved in the payment market infrastructure. A third of attendants named payments as their primary business focus, with 17% each in trade services and cash management, 12% in securities and lower percentages for FX, money markets, and derivatives.

This year’s conference will cover compliance, technology, institutional cultural transformation, cyberthreats, data management, the future of correspondent banking, and disruptive technologies. Breakout sessions focus on a range of current issues, from blockchain solutions to robo-advisers to regulation. The results of a pilot initiative in cross-border payments, with 21 banks participating, will be announced. Months after strongly defending its payment system following a major cybertheft, SWIFT will present details of its new customer security program.

Our supplement focuses on the key themes that top the agenda: blockchain innovation, regulatory uncertainty, digitization efforts in trade finance, emerging cybersecurity threats, the increasingly complex relationships between banks and fintech firms, and payment systems priorities—particularly in light of continuing regulation. It is our contribution to the discussion.