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Will SWIFT’s real-time offering in US confuse or clarify?

Is SWIFT’s inevitable announcement that it will provide U.S. institutions with a gateway to The Clearing House’s real-time payments (RTP) platform, a good thing for corporates? As instant payments become more ubiquitous in the U.S., SWIFT say it will provide an interface to manage the requirements of sending and receiving domestic instant payment transactions on behalf of customers. But who is going to bring all the different immediate payment solutions together?

The Clearing House (TCH) is building a new clearing and settlement system to support domestic instant payments in the U.S., allowing consumers and businesses to send and receive payments in real-time and directly from their accounts at financial institutions. It will also include data and non-payment messages that financial institutions can use to build digital commerce solutions.

US Federal Reserve faster payments task force report

This report on faster payments solutions - there were 8 solutions then - identified several problems with the US’s chosen multiple solutions approach:

  • service providers and end users will see little or no value if required to invest in or use multiple solutions to reach a large number of other end users
  • the need to broaden the reach of all solutions by enabling faster payments transactions to cross between them
  • technical and business process issues cannot allowed to inhibit this interoperability
  • solutions may have different rules, policies, and functionality resulting in variations and ambiguity in the end-user experience
  • security: When multiple solution operators pass payments and share information, a security weakness in any one solution makes the system as a whole more vulnerable.

Will the SWIFT faster payments solution make it any easier to deliver the ubiquitous solution that is so clearly needed?

SWIFT’s offering available by early 2018

SWIFT’s solution for the U.S. market will provide banks with the opportunity to leverage a single platform, Alliance Messaging Hub (AMH) for both SWIFT high-value payments and low-value TCH real-time payments. AMH is an orchestration layer that includes a gateway to the TCH RTP network, as well as other gateways and API's which allow financial institutions to connect to other non-SWIFT networks. Financial institutions can leverage AMH to support instant payments, simplifying adoption to our customers. The solution will be commercially available by early 2018.


  • “SWIFT is working together with communities worldwide to support the global shift towards real-time payments, and we are pleased to be at the forefront as the U.S. market evolves,” said Ignacio Blanco, Director, Strategic Relationships at SWIFT. “The Clearing House is making great strides in accelerating the speed of transactions, and we are committed to playing our part in helping the financial community to operate as efficiently as possible.”
  • Steve Ledford, SVP Product and Strategy at The Clearing House, added: “Given its reach and expertise in payments, SWIFT is a great collaborator as we bring a wide-scale real-time payments system to the U.S. market. Achieving our vision of broad adoption of real-time payments will only be possible when the majority of U.S. institutions are able to participate, and SWIFT will be instrumental in helping us meet this goal.”

SWIFT’s global strategy

The SWIFT solution for the USA is the latest development in SWIFT's global instant payments strategy, and builds on SWIFT’s earlier success in Australia and in Europe. In 2015, SWIFT was awarded the contract to deliver the messaging infrastructure to underpin Australia’s new payments platform, NPPA, which is expected to go live later in 2017. Earlier this year, SWIFT announced the launch of an instant payments messaging solution, first for the European market, and elsewhere. It will allow instant payments to be made over the SWIFT network and provide customers with a single gateway to connect seamlessly to multiple instant payments systems. Amongst others, it will offer connectivity to the Eurosystem’s TARGET Instant Payment Settlement (TIPS) and will support the delivery of the future Eurosystem single gateway to TIPS, TARGET2 (T2) and TARGET2 for Securities (T2S) platforms, as laid out in the Eurosystem’s Vision 2020.

CTMfile take: There is now a major new offering in the USA which swamps most of the others, but is it too late? SWIFT’s new offering might just make the multiple solutions approach work. There must be many corporates hoping it will.

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