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20.12.18

Sibos 2018 resume. Day 2

On the second day of Sibos, key themes that emerged were those of a new world order, rules of competition that were founded in trade and infrastructure, and how to navigate cross-border risk and payment journeys. The participants have heard how to harness cloud and APIs to future proof financial services.

Source: Sibos Insider, http://cib.db.com 

Markets not territory

Setting the tone for Day 2 at breakfast Parag Khanna, founder of Future Map, a data and scenario based strategic global advisory firm. He said while the world remains as competitive as it has always been, the battlefield has changed, and increasingly, “antagonists are connected to each other”.

The speaker noted that today there is much more focus on gaining a trading partner and a market, than on geographical territory.

As for trade wars, he said, they are “nothing new” and “we are battling a trade war every single day” now that “who rules the supply chain rules the world”. Khanna predicted, “We will build more infrastructure over the next 40 years than we have in the past 4000 years.”

Are instant payments really instant?

This Sibos session ‘Instant payments – a real-time reality’ with Australia’s New Payments Platform (NPP) CEO Adrian Lovney, and Karen Birkel of the ECB (TIPS in Europe), and Petia Niederländer of EBA Clearing, Erste Bank Group (RT-1 in Europe) moderated by SWIFT’s Carlo Palmers. All three payment platforms were built on SWIFT rails.

Lovney demonstrated how the NPP worked using OSKO, the first overlay service that sits on the platform with a payment moving in seconds to a pay ID. This provides reach to 50 million accounts.

Niederländer explained how RT-1 started in November last year to process SEPA payments, with around 80 banks next month and 70,000 transactions a day. “We are happy we have one of the oldest banks in the world as well as banks that have only had their licences six months,” she said. TIPS is due to go live next month, said Birkel, and they are still testing. They have seen successful liquidity transfers in the test environment. “We are very confident we will go live successfully on 30 November.” She said this was a small start – 20 banks at the end of November – but more are expected to join in 2019.

Other countries are also on the road to implementation, and Lovney’s observations were that building the central kit was relatively easy, but “back office integration is likely to be more complicated than you think it is”. Banks, he said, are big beasts with a lot of legacy systems. And, you have to be willing to live with imperfection to achieve speed. “We all know you never switch on a system like this and expect ubiquitous reach on Day 1. We agreed around a year before we were due to go live on the minimum critical mass we were prepared to launch with.” The platform focused on person-to person (P2P) payments but they catered for who might need to drive standardised messages across the industry. He also confirmed they have made available an API sandbox to encourage API makers to play around with the tool in the cloud.

Trade wars and new technologies – a new era for trade finance

Economist Dr Rebecca Harding, was back by popular demand, moderating ‘Trade wars & technology – a new era for trade finance’ with Jason Kelley (IBM BlockchainServices), Samuel Mathew (Standard Chartered), Rajkiran Rai (Union Bank of India) and Deutsche Bank’s Daniel Schmand. Faster payments are all very well, but of course reduce the need for working capital, and a resurgence in nationalism and protectionism has ended the steady run towards globalisation over the past 20 years.

“One could argue this is a measure being used to force a single isolated position which has nothing to do with trade and the underlying economics,” said Schmand. “There is no war, it is just an exchange”, said Kelley. However it is an act of aggression – “remember the banana wars in the late 1990s?” said Mathew. He sees the bigger problem being the creation of an environment of uncertainty that could deter investors. Rai made the interesting point that India is a beneficiary of the trade “war” between the US and China once the supply chain gets disrupted, but that there is wider damage to the financial system that hurts everyone because “a lot can happen in 180 days” (the average tenor of a documentary credit), and banks are now exposed to greater risks during that period than they were before.

Turning to the Holy Grail of digitalised trade finance, the difficulty comes when you move outside a national closed ecosystem where rules and regulations are clear (eg Singapore) and go across borders. Schmand said that the issue is not the technology – “it is there and it works” – but a solution that could be tested in a closed ecosystem and then branch out. Another idea was to look at agreeing a new currency and settlement system outside the dollar, euro and yen as the technology continues to evolve. He reminded delegates that trade finance “flows on the back of commercial flows”, and a poll of the packed room indicated 75% of those present thought trade wars were “here to stay” and protectionism, along with trade disagreements, will be “ongoing”.

And for this reason, an improved digital solution to all that paper is all the more urgent.

Correspondent banking blues

Two Cass Business School speakers – Barbara Casu Lukac, Professor of Banking and Finance, and former Citi regulatory guru Ruth Wandhöfer tackled “The future of correspondent banking cross-border payments”.

This looked at whether and how technology and policy measures can unlock some of the impasses in correspondent banking and cross-border payments, by looking at new business models, and investigating additional services to make this a safer business that reconnects people across the globe after the recent period of widespread de-risking.

A brief online questionnaire distributed by SWIFT revealed pain points including opacity in transaction-related costs, for example who paid which fees to whom for validation, AML and counterparty risk, ahead of costs for messages and bank charges.

The results were put to industry participants and discussed in focus groups including the Financial Stability Board on how a model could be designed to overcome these points. They came up with a set of key requirements for future cross-border payments models covering: settlement, liquidity efficiency, predictability, interoperability, transparency, ubiquity and interoperability.

A set of seven design scenarios for an improved cross-border payment process emerged including those already existing such as SWIFT gpi and new ones:

  • SWIFT gpi: “This is an example of the importance of the network effect”, said Wandhöfer. “gpi is addressing the fact transparency plays a key role and uses cloud and APIs”.
  • A narrow clearing bank.
  • Connecting clearing houses – the ACH today are not for high value payments
  • Integration of regional RTGS (real time gross settlement) systems managing flows between different countries, with a blurring of boundaries between high and low value clearing
  • Global settlement utility to achieve settlement finality in central bank money
  • Synchronisation using DLT technology such as settlement coin
  • Next level of gpi including more services, with sanctions, KYC and more transparency through the new release implementing the UETR.

Game of homes [data]

The 4th Industrial Revolution & Geopolitics: Are advances in technology worsening geopolitics or are rising geopolitical hostilities raising barriers in technology? The answer, according to the panel with this very long title, was that was not really the main issue and what was really needed was more cross-border collaboration on cyber-security, as well as opportunities (picking up Khanna’s breakfast point of territory gains being much further down the political agenda than market access).

This was all debated by Norm Judah (Microsoft), Josh Kalimer (Information Technology Industry Council), Rob Sloan (Dow Jones), ably moderated by Alison Tudor Ackroyd, Managing Editor of Finance Asia and Corporate Treasurer.

It was agreed by panellists there should be more cross-border collaboration on cyber security. They explained how companies and governments sometimes don’t know that they have been attacked and struggle to come back from one. Norm Judah (Microsoft) said that the struggle of governments to get a handle on cybercrime contributes to geological tension. “For example, Vietnam requires the localisation of data on the belief that it keeps that data safe. While the motivation is sincere, the response is suboptimal.

Attention turned to IP theft and leakage, and we heard how it is the mind-set of how you deal with the failure of protection and the recovery that is so important. “While information sharing should not be stopped, there needs to be a set of rules to avoid information leakages,” said Judah. Kallmer pointed out that these happen not always because of deliberate theft, but because people move around.

The overall conclusion on this was that both tech providers and the banks have to take a position on information sharing and leakages, but some guidelines from the governments are needed. For example, the financial services industry has been lobbying the US government to allow facial recognition. As soon as the governments have a policy there will be smaller preventative projects such as these.

Up to the atmosphere

‘Cloud and API – embracing disruption in financial services’ was one of the key sessions of the day, not only evidenced by a packed room but the general mobbing of the speakers afterwards.

It starred Polina Evstifeeva from Deutsche Bank’s GTB Chief Digital Office, alongside Chet Kapoor from Google Cloud, Claus Richter of Nordea and Eli Rosner of fintech provider (the former Misys) Finastra, moderated by Christine Leong of Accenture. A poll of the room indicated that most delegates did have some sort of API strategy or were at least thinking of putting one in place.
 
Nordea’s Richter set the scene with “cloud and open banking is about how we deliver business today and deliver the business of the future.”

Data gravity and computing power

Rosner developed this by pointing out that it was a means to an end and the transformation of a business model. “If you have an API it means you are future protecting yourself by exposing your capabilities through a standard interface and opening yourself up to communicate with other partners in the ecosystem. When you look at Cloud, it means that you now have today a significant collection of data gravity in one place, alongside infinite computing power, enabling you to drive a business transformation. Banks can transform their business model and diversify their business and grow,” he said.
 
Another room poll suggested most see APIs as a product evolution strategy rather than a regulatory obligation, but Deutsche Bank’s Evstifeeva provided some background to the regulatory drivers.

“We see a lot of data growing each day - everyone is producing data. So it’s about how you store and exchange it. Data and cybersecurity are under the regulatory spotlight. If you think about APIs, they are nothing new. But now we are talking about them all the time and there are eight or so sessions here at Sibos dedicated them. In Europe, the PSD2 requirement for banks to open up their data and systems to third parties has been the catalyst.”

Regulator engagement

She added, “Regulators do understand innovation and are looking at how they can support API and cloud solutions being adopted by banks and how they can facilitate that. This is really important support we can get from regulators on this journey which will help us drive this forward.”
 
Kapoor reminded everyone, “At the end of the day the centre of all this is the user. Our consumers are asking us for technology they are not getting and industry, corporations and regulators need to work together to make this happen.” He said he had seen many implementations and the successful organisations “think of technology as a competitive advantage, as something they use to change their business – it’s not just about cost savings.”
 
He added, “When you embrace technology you think about it as a time to market. You realise quickly you cannot implement technology with old rules. Your planning cycles cannot take nine months. You have to make cultural and process changes. Good organisations realise they have to move the goal posts, and the successful implementations are those that move quickly where APIs are regarded as products and not projects.”

Change or die

Evstifeeva reflected, “Let’s not forget the requirement to open up the data has only just come up. Banks are only just into the new reality. It was the norm that banks owned the data and now they need to open it up. Look at what we did with IATA – where Deutsche bank is taking the role of the third party provider to provide a payments solutions. The key is to embrace the change and become a market leader and play a new role. If you don’t you put your business at risk.” Further detail on her points can be found in the Deutsche Bank white paper, “Regulation driving banking transformation”.
 
Rosner gave everyone additional food for thought when the observation that a bank’s greatest asset is trust and “if they have multiple corporations banking with them and those corporations serve each other, the bank can be a trusted adviser and aggregator of that data and provide new services.”