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The acronym stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications. SWIFT
is a co-operative society. According to Article 3 of its Articles of Association: "The object of the
Company is for the collective benefit of the Members of the Company, the study, creation,
utilisation and operation of the means necessary for the telecommunication, transmission and
routing of private, confidential and proprietary financial messages."

The Society's headquarters are situated in La Hulpe, on the outskirts of Brussels. SWIFT also
acts as a United Nations sanctioned International Standards Body (ISO) for the creation and
maintenance of financial messaging standards.

SWIFT was formed when seven major international banks met in 1974 to discuss the limitations
of Telex as a means of secure delivery of payment and confirmation information, primarily in the
Treasury and Correspondent banking areas. Telex suffered from a number of limitations due to
its speed (50 Baud or approximately 8 bytes per second), its free format (that made automation at
the receiving end almost impossible), and the lack of security, with Testkeys only being
calculated on a subset of the message content.

The decision was taken at that time to form the society and three years later in 1977, 230 banks
in 5 countries went live. New countries and users were and indeed still are, added 4 times a year
with recent figures showing 212 countries and more than 10,000 institutions connected.

Over the years message type coverage has been greatly expanded to cover a much greater range
of financial transactions, and new message types are added to the system once a year in
November. The original network was superseded by an X.25 based network in 1990 to cope with
the increasing message volumes, and in the early 2000s the X.25 network was replaced by an IP
based network known as SWIFTNet. Currently the average daily SWIFTNet FIN (MT) network
traffic is approximately 24 million messages. About 48% of this traffic is for payment messages,
46% securities messages, and the remainder treasury, trade and system messages.
Uniquely, SWIFT take full liability for each message once they have accepted it, and it is
probably this fact, linked to the inbuilt security and robustness of the network (consistently better
than 99.999% up-time every year), that has led to SWIFT's dominant position in the market.

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