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The Long Now: 2015? or 2115?

Well, another fruitful day at #SIBOS 2010.

After the morning plenary, I spent most of it debating big questions in the Long Now innotribe stream. The discussions today moved from trust to what ‘long’ means. For many, long means three years in their business thinking. But, in life, Long is eighty years or more. We deal with this in our lives but not in work. Strange.

It also became clear that we only think Long for two reasons: first, to leave a legacy of our imprint on this world, such as the Medici’s benefaction of Michael Angelo to create the Sistine Chapel or the Egyptians and their pyramids; or to avoid a once-in-a-lifetime disaster, such as another Hurricane Katrina or the building of vaults to dump radioactive waste.

In these instances, people invest for 1,000 years projects, but it is rare and unusual.

We then talked about creating parables and stories that would illustrate 1,000 year thinking, such as the story of the price Alexander the Great paid his soldiers in 400 BC equates in Greek Drachma to the same price we would pay today for a solider in the British Army. Or the Swedish government who ordered timber for their Navy in the 1840s and, 150 years later, the Head of the Navy got a phone call from the Head of the Swedish Forestry Commission saying that their wood had arrived, where did he want it delivered (in other words, it took them that long to grow the trees!).

All interesting debates, which I’ll blog more about next week.

Then it was off to hear about SWIFT’s strategy for 2015, which is based upon reducing transaction costs, increasing and deepening their core activities and helping to deliver interoperability.

Transaction costs have already delivered €90 million in savings, representing 17% of SWIFT’s costs. FIN message costs are down 20%, saving €17m a year for in 2011. In fact, transaction costs are down 50% over the past five years, and will continue in that direction.

Regarding the deepening of the core, this is all about the 99.9999% network availability requirement, the standards setting and related core services.

SWIFT are also taking some calculated bets in areas that are adjacent to the core, such as with reference data, securities matching services and sanctions.

SWIFT will also develop enablers to these services in the form of consulting, interface hosting, high-end interfaces, low-end connectivity and local communities.

Surprisingly, half of all SWIFT’s volumes are for domestic message routing they claim and, for that, they need to go local and partner, and that is what our local programmes are all about.

Other areas in the strategy include innovation – hence innotribe – culture, brand and the other areas that create the foundations of SWIFT.

Meanwhile, interoperability is creating a range of services covering:

  • Connectivity;
  • Security and identity;
  • Transfer protocols;
  • Message standards;
  • Market practices;
  • Reference data; and
  • Routing and timing.

Interesting stuff, although there is always a cynic.

For example, as I left this session, someone said: “so where’s SWIFT’s strategy for Real-Time Messages?”

I asked what they meant, and their view was that the 2015 roadmap should have had more focus upon cloud services for real-time processing, and that this map looked more like D+1.

You can’t win with some folks, can you?

I then dived into a dull discussion about liquidity management before hitting the exhibit hall and sharing news and views with friends and strangers.

Interestingly, the first champagne corks were popping at 3:00 today, so that’s not bad for the second day at SIBOS.

Finally, tired, it’s the one-hour bus trip back to the hotel before heading out on the town.

Oh, it’s a hard life, but someone’s gotta drink it … after all, work is for the drinking classes.

See you tomorrow.


About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here…

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  • Macedonian

    I personally think that 80 years is one whole life, and it can not be “long”. For me – it will be “all”.
    Long must be something shorter, for example 10 or 20 years. Something that I can achive. Maybe long for a country or region or nation could be more, but thinking “long” for a person – it is not more than 20 years.
    By the way, Alexander the Great was mostly paying in Macedonian staters, and other valuable things that he took from the defeated enemy (mostly gold), including sometimes the Greek drachma. You may see some gold staters in the coin museum in the National bank of the Republic of Macedonia.