Fifteen million messages a day are generated in SWIFT's interbank payment network. In the past, this enormous flow of data has passed by silently; member banks had little access to it. But the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication has implemented a data warehouse and business intelligence software that member banks will be able to use to analyze this data for benchmarking and strategic planning purposes.

"We'll be able to leverage the information that's part of the SWIFT message on behalf of the owner of that information and allow them to understand their business on a much more granular level," says Ed Adams, a regional director for SWIFT in the Americas in New York.

SWIFT purchased MicroStrategy's business intelligence and analytics software to improve visibility into the network's messages. The organization charges its membership — 9,700 financial institutions, securities firms and other companies in more than 200 countries — for use of it. This move follows other recent efforts by SWIFT to improve its ability to standardize and improve efficiencies in the processing of automated transactions.

As banks focus more on compliance and managing systemic performance, SWIFT hopes to address a need among members for broader access to data surrounding corporate payments and other financial transactions, particularly the ability to identify points of strength and weakness in the payment supply chain.

"SWIFT has a broad range of messages they support and although they count volumes per month, it's more retroactive than proactive," says Nancy Atkinson, a senior analyst at Aite Group. "This deployment can inform strategic direction going forward, giving SWIFT and banks more detail and the ability to spot trends earlier."

By using the platform, SWIFT can view all messages that are generated each day in the interbank network. MicroStrategy accumulates and breaks down the transaction data and has built a database of information including payments between member banks, payments between banks and corporates, volume concentrations and spikes, market trends, tendencies and performance information on transactions that can guide decisions on counterparty risk and help banks spot new market opportunities.

"SWIFT offers its member banks and corporates the opportunity to build their own dashboards and see data across organizations," says Atkinson.

For example, a member can access SWIFT services powered by MicroStrategy's software to benchmark payments performance in a geographic market against other institutions' performance — a metric that can then be used to drive staffing, marketing or expansion decisions. The benchmark studies are blind — banks select peer groups but SWIFT does not indicate what data belongs to each peer.

"If you want to increase share in the Taiwanese market, for example, and put eight new sales people in the area, six months from now you'll be able to measure how successful that's been," says Adams. "If you're at eight percent and pick up two percent, that sounds good. But by accessing business intelligence, you'll be able to better understand how well you've done by comparing to competitors and gauging your overall performance."