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All About Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT)

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The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) (also known as ISO 9362, SWIFT-BIC, BIC code, SWIFT ID or SWIFT code) is a standard format of Business Identifier Codes approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). It is a unique identification code for both financial and non-financial institutions. (When assigned to a non-financial institution, a code may also be known as a Business Entity Identifier or BEI.) These codes are used when transferring money between banks, particularly for international wire transfers, and also for the exchange of other messages between banks. The codes can sometimes be found on account statements. SWIFT and BIC codes are basically the same. 

The SWIFT code is 8 or 11 characters, 
Example: BBBBUS3MXXX

  • BBBB 4 letters: Institution Code or bank code.
  • US 2 letters: ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code
  • 3M 2 letters or digits: location code
  • If the second character is “0”, then it is typically a test BIC as opposed to a BIC used on the live network.
  • If the second character is “1”, then it denotes a passive participant in the SWIFT network
  • If the second character is “2”, then it typically indicates a reverse billing BIC, where the recipient pays for the message as opposed to the more usual mode whereby the sender pays for the message.
  • XXX 3 letters or digits: branch code, optional (‘XXX’ for primary office)

Where an 8-digit code is given, it may be assumed that it refers to the primary office.

In  the beginning, SWIFT founders designed the network to facilitate communication about Treasury and correspondent transactions only. The robustness of the message format design allowed huge scalability through which SWIFT gradually expanded to provide services to the following:

    •    Banks

    •    Brokerage Institutes and Trading Houses

    •    Securities Dealers

    •    Asset Management Companies

    •    Clearing Houses

    •    Depositories

    •    Exchanges

    •    Corporate Business Houses

    •    Treasury Market Participants and Service Providers

    •    Foreign Exchange and Money Brokers

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