SWIFT is the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, a member-owned cooperative through which the financial world conducts its business operations over a secure and reliable network. Over 8,300 banking organisations, securities institutions and corporate customers in more than 208 countries exchange millions of standardised financial messages every day. Through its network, SWIFT enables the automation and standardisation of financial transactions, thereby lowering costs, reducing operational risk and eliminating inefficiencies from operations.
Headquarters are in Belgium with offices in the world's major financial centres and developing markets. SWIFT was founded in Brussels in 1973, supported by 239 banks in 15 countries and started to establish common standards for financial transactions, a shared data processing system and worldwide communications network. Fundamental operating procedures, rules for liability etc., were established in 1975 and the first message was sent in 1977.
SWIFT is solely a carrier of messages. It does not hold funds nor does it manage accounts on behalf of customers, nor does it store financial information on an on-going basis. As a data carrier, SWIFT transports messages between two financial institutions. This activity involves the secure exchange of proprietary data while ensuring its confidentiality and integrity.