The SWIFT International Banking Operations Seminar (SIBOS) is a banking & finance conference, hosted by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. First hosted in 1978, it has been running annually ever since and has been hosted in a variety of global locations. This year’s event was due to be held in Boston, until it became yet another victim of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and was forced to move online.
Running from October 5th-8th, the second day of the conference held a varied programme, featuring sessions on SWIFTS payment strategy, the pandemics effect on the industry workforce, and keynotes from the CEO’s of NatWest, the Bank of New York Mellon and Microsoft – as well as the Dream Big! Stay Fit initiative that starts off the day.
SWIFT Strategy Overview: Payments
This session discussed SWIFT’s new strategic vision to support the payments business of financial institutions through instant and frictionless transactions and a state of the art platform. The panel, made up of SWIFT bank partners from Citi, Standard Chartered Bank and BNP Paribas, examined this new strategy and why it was relevant currently, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
The strategy revolves around the customer experience and the companies vision of future payments to be frictionless, smart and interactive. The speakers cited the main challenges in this to be different regulatory approaches across borders, solving problems in open and closed-loop ecosystems, as well as data harmonization. However, they also claimed that the future is commercially driven, and banks should fundamentally change and move forward.
Speakers included Mark Buitenhek, Head of Transaction Services, ING; Bruno Mellado, Global Head of Payments and Receivables, BNP Paribas; Harry Newman, Head of Payments Strategy, SWIFT; Melissa Tuozzolo, ICG Clearing FI Payments, Marketing Management & Industry Head, Citi; Shirish Wadivkar, Global Head, Correspondent Banking Products, Standard Chartered Bank; David Watson, Chief Strategy Officer, SWIFT; and the panel was moderated by Sasika Devolder, Managing Director Business Development Europe North and Head of expert teams EMEA, Swift.
For this session, NatWest CEO Alison Rose was joined by Lord Nicholas Stern, IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government and recently appointed independent climate advisor for NatWest, to discuss the importance of tackling climate change and how NatWest plan to lessen their environmental impact.
Introduced via a video about the climate change emergency, the session was led by Rose telling attendees that as a bank, NatWest acknowledges they must begin to act now. She said: “We appear to be at a tipping point, one where we have to ask ourselves what we want our legacy to be? What can we do as individuals, what might we do as a bank and an industry to make a positive difference?”
This message was reiterated throughout the talk, with Lord Stern underpinning the need to reach net-zero when it comes to carbon emissions – “We should all be aiming at net zero. Every household, every firm and every financial institution should think about how they get to net zero in the next 30 years” – before advising that emissions need to be reduced by 50% over the next decade.
“The good news is we can do it”
After Lord Stern set out the issues in climate change we currently face on Earth and highlighted what needed to be done, Rose told attendees about NatWest’s obligation in playing an active role to support Britain’s transition to a low carbon economy to reduce the effects of climate change. As one of the largest lenders to British businesses and a leading lender to renewable energy to the UK, they have pledged to embed climate change responsibility meaningfully across the bank and their culture, making it one of the three key areas of focus.
They have two main goals in this; to make their own direct operations climate positive by 2025, and to reduce the climate impact of their financing activity by at least 50% by the end of the decade. They have already begun to work towards achieving these goals, and announced further plans:
- NatWest have committed to stop lending to and underwriting major oil and gas producers and companies involved in coal related activity unless they have a credible transition plan aligned with the 2015 Paris agreement in place by 2021, with a full phase out from coal by 2030.
- Plan to stop lending to projects involving exploration for new oil and gas reserves.
- Support mortgage customers to become more energy efficient, with the ambition to have their mortgage book at or above energy performance certificate rating of C by 2030.
- Provide an additional £20 billion pounds of financing and funding for climate and sustainable finance by 2022.
“This is not a single player game”
Rose continued, saying that NatWest’s intentions are what banks need to be in order to become a benchmark for climate change in the sector. “Positive climate change is not a competitive sport,” she said, “we will not be able to do this on our own. This is about collaboration across the industry. We don’t have the luxury of sitting back and trying to work it out, we’ve got to get on with it.”
This session showed a clear commitment from NatWest in the fight against climate change, shown in their initiatives. Rose was direct in her view that NatWest should become a role model for the rest of the industry and take the lead when it comes to the environmental frontier. NatWest’s call to action was particularly good to hear, and hopefully they will continue with their own efforts alongside encouraging others in the industry to act.