SWIFT & SEPA & Instant Payment & KTT

What is SWIFT?

SWIFT is a global messaging network that enables financial institutions to securely exchange standardized financial messages, such as payment instructions, securities transactions, and account statements. It was founded in 1973 as a cooperative society under Belgian law, with the primary aim of replacing the telex-based communication systems that were previously used for international financial transactions. Today, SWIFT connects over 11,000 financial institutions across more than 200 countries, making it a key component of the global financial infrastructure.


SWIFT is owned by its member institutions, which are primarily banks and other financial institutions. It operates as a member-owned cooperative, with each member holding a stake in the organization based on their usage of SWIFT services. The governance of SWIFT is overseen by a Board of Directors, which is elected by its shareholders and comprises representatives from various member institutions.

How SWIFT operates

SWIFT provides a secure, standardized, and reliable messaging platform for financial institutions to exchange information. It uses a system of unique codes, known as Bank Identifier Codes (BICs) or SWIFT codes, to identify the sending and receiving institutions involved in a transaction. The messages sent via SWIFT are formatted according to specific message types and follow the ISO 20022 messaging standard, which ensures that the information exchanged is consistent, accurate, and easily interpretable by all parties involved.

Nature of SWIFT messages

It is important to note that SWIFT itself does not transfer money or hold accounts on behalf of its member institutions. Instead, SWIFT serves as a messaging system that facilitates the exchange of financial information, such as payment instructions, between banks and financial institutions. When a bank sends a payment instruction via SWIFT, it is essentially requesting the receiving bank to transfer a specified amount from its account to the beneficiary's account. The actual transfer of funds takes place through correspondent banking relationships and settlement systems, such as RTGS systems or Automated Clearing Houses (ACHs), which handle the movement of money between accounts.

Connection to SWIFT

Financial institutions connect to the SWIFT network through various channels, such as SWIFT Alliance Access, SWIFT Alliance Lite2, or SWIFTNet Link, depending on their size, technical capabilities, and messaging requirements. The messages are transmitted securely using SWIFT's proprietary communication protocol and encrypted using state-of-the-art security measures.

SWIFT gpi transfers. 

SWIFT gpi (Global Payments Innovation):

Launched in 2017, SWIFT gpi is an initiative designed to address the limitations of traditional SWIFT transfers by enhancing the speed, transparency, and traceability of cross-border payments. SWIFT gpi leverages the existing MT and MX message formats to improve payment services. Key features of SWIFT gpi include:

  • Faster payments: gpi streamlines processes and establishes tighter service-level agreements (SLAs) between banks, resulting in faster transaction times, often within minutes or seconds.
  • Payment tracking: The gpi Tracker enables real-time tracking of transactions, improving transparency and reducing manual investigations.
  • Fee transparency: Banks can provide customers with information about transaction fees upfront, allowing for better decision-making.
  • Richer data: gpi supports more detailed and structured information exchange, facilitating improved reconciliation and regulatory compliance.

In summary, normal SWIFT transfers and communication rely on standardized MT messages and are gradually transitioning to the richer MX messages (ISO 20022) to facilitate cross-border transactions. SWIFT gpi addresses the limitations of traditional SWIFT transfers by enhancing cross-border payments with end-to-end tracking, faster processing, and richer data. Meanwhile, SWIFT Instant connects with domestic instant payment systems to enable real-time transaction processing, both domestically and internationally, using the ISO 20022 standard. These systems represent ongoing efforts to modernize and streamline payment processes in the financial industry.

For a general overview about SWIFT GPI please click here and for the Swift GPI Certified Application Manual please click here.
To check your UETR through Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank please click here or  here.

Normal SWIFT Transfers and Communication with MT and MX messages:

SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) is a secure messaging network that enables financial institutions, such as banks, to send and receive standardized messages about financial transactions, like payment instructions and confirmations. SWIFT does not hold accounts or transfer funds; it simply provides a secure and reliable platform for exchanging information.

Normal SWIFT transfers use a series of standardized message types known as MT (Message Type) messages. These messages have predefined formats and fields, ensuring that financial institutions can easily understand and process the information they contain.

MX (ISO 20022) messages are a newer standard of financial messaging based on XML (eXtensible Markup Language). They provide a richer and more structured format, allowing for enhanced data exchange and improved straight-through processing. MX messages are gradually replacing MT messages in the SWIFT network, with the aim of providing better interoperability and data handling capabilities.

While traditional SWIFT transfers have been the backbone of international payments for decades, they have some limitations, including limited transparency, slower processing times, and unstructured data, as I explained in the previous response.

SWIFT MT Standards 2021

Category 1 - Customer Payments and Cheques
Message Reference Guide MT 101-199

Category 2 - Financial Institution Transfers
Message Reference Guide MT 200-299

Category 3 - Treasury Markets - Foreign Exchange, Money Markets and Derivatives
Message Reference Guide MT 300-349

Message Reference Guide MT 350-399
Message Usage Guide

Category 4 - Collections and Cash Letters
Message Reference Guide MT 400-499

Category 5 - Securities Markets
Message Reference Guide MT 500-518
Message Reference Guide MT 519-543
Message Reference Guide MT 544-567
Message Reference Guide MT 568-599
Message Usage Guide

Category 6 - Reference Data - Treasury Markets - Commodities
Message Reference Guide MT 600-699
Message Reference Guide MT 670-699

Category 7 - Documentary Credits and Guarantees/Standby Letters of Credit
Message Reference Guide MT 700-799

Category 8 - Travellers Cheques
Message Reference Guide MT 800-899

Category 9 - Cash Management and Customer Status
Message Reference Guide MT 900-999

Category n - Common Group Messages
Message Reference Guide MT n90-n99

Updates 2022

System Messages
Error Codes

SWIFT MX Standards

Bank Account Management 

Bank Services Billing 

Bank-to-Customer Cash Management 

Cash Management 

Collateral Management 

Corporate Actions 

Exceptions and Investigations 


General Meeting 

Notification to Receive 

Payments Clearing and Settlement 

Payments Initiation 

Payments Mandates 

Post Trade Matching 

Securities Clearing 

Settlement and Reconciliation 

Shareholders Identification Disclosure 


Total Portfolio Valuation Report 

Trade Services Management 

SWIFT Direct Debit

SWIFT Direct Debit

Direct debit in the SWIFT system is a payment method that allows businesses and individuals to collect funds from debtor bank accounts in multiple currencies and across different countries. Unlike SEPA Direct Debit, which is specifically designed for the SEPA zone and is limited to euro-denominated transactions, direct debit in SWIFT has a global scope and supports a wide range of currencies.

The process of initiating a direct debit transaction within the SWIFT system typically involves the following steps:

  1. Agreement between creditor and debtor: The creditor and debtor must have a pre-existing agreement, which includes the terms and conditions for direct debit transactions. This agreement may also involve setting up a mandate or authorization, allowing the creditor to collect payments from the debtor's bank account.
  2. Message exchange: The creditor initiates the direct debit transaction by sending a SWIFT message (MT204) to the debtor's bank. This message contains the details of the transaction, such as the amount, currency, debtor's account information, and any other necessary information.
  3. Verification and authorization: The debtor's bank verifies the transaction details, checks the availability of funds in the debtor's account, and confirms the authorization for the transaction. If everything is in order, the debtor's bank proceeds to debit the funds from the debtor's account.
  4. Funds transfer: The debtor's bank orders the transfer of the funds through its correspondent bank to the creditor's bank, usually via an MT202 message and informs the bank of the beneficiary with a MT103 message in the SWIFT system.
  5. Confirmation: Upon receiving the funds, the creditor's bank sends a confirmation message to the creditor, notifying them of the successful direct debit transaction.

The prerequisites for initiating a direct debit transaction within the SWIFT system are as follows:

  1. Bank accounts: Both the creditor and debtor must hold bank accounts with financial institutions that are part of the SWIFT network.
  2. Agreement and authorization: A pre-existing agreement and authorization (mandate) between the creditor and debtor must be in place to enable direct debit transactions.
  3. SWIFT message formats: The creditor must be familiar with the appropriate SWIFT message formats (e.g., MT204, MT202, MT103) used for initiating and completing direct debit transactions.
  4. Bank fees: The creditor and debtor should be aware of any fees associated with direct debit transactions within the SWIFT system, as these fees may vary depending on the banks and countries involved.

STEP2 SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT)

STEP2 SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) service from EBA Clearing.

SEPA is a European Union (EU) initiative aimed at simplifying and harmonizing electronic payment transactions within Europe. SEPA covers all countries within the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA), along with Switzerland and Monaco. The main objective of SEPA is to create a single, integrated market for euro-denominated payments, making cross-border transactions as easy and efficient as domestic transactions. SEPA covers various types of electronic payments, including credit transfers, direct debits, and card payments.

The STEP2 SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) Service is a Pan-European Automated Clearing House (PE-ACH) operated by EBA Clearing, which is a leading clearing and settlement infrastructure provider in Europe. The SCT Service enables banks and financial institutions to send and receive SEPA payments across the entire SEPA region.

Here's how the STEP2 SCT Service operates:

  1. Pan-European reach: The SCT Service allows participating banks to send and receive SEPA credit transfers, reaching all other financial institutions within the SEPA region. This ensures that euro-denominated payments can be made seamlessly across borders.
  2. Resilience and disaster recovery: The SCT Service is designed with high resilience and full disaster recovery features, ensuring the continuous, secure, and efficient processing of SEPA payments, even in the event of technical disruptions or failures.
  3. Settlement in T2: Participants in the SCT Service settle their STEP2 positions through T2, which is the Eurosystem's real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system for large-value payments in euros. STEP2 first creates bilateral gross positions for each participant and reports them. Then, it calculates the multilateral net positions and sends these amounts to TARGET2 using the Ancillary System Interface.
  4. Reconciliation messages: Participants in the SCT Service can request specific SWIFT messages (MT 900 / MT 910, MT 940 / MT 950) from T2 for reconciliation purposes. These messages provide transaction confirmations, account statements, and balance reports, which can help participants verify and reconcile their account activity.

In summary, SEPA is an EU initiative aimed at simplifying and harmonizing electronic payment transactions within Europe, making cross-border payments as easy as domestic ones. The STEP2 SCT Service from EBA Clearing is a Pan-European Automated Clearing House that enables banks and financial institutions to send and receive SEPA credit transfers across the SEPA region. The service operates with high resilience and disaster recovery features and settles participant positions through TARGET2, allowing for secure, efficient, and seamless euro-denominated transactions across borders.

SEPA Direct Debit (SDD)

SEPA Direct Debit (SDD) 

SEPA Direct Debit is a payment method within the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), allowing businesses and individuals to collect euro-denominated payments from debtor bank accounts in the SEPA zone, which comprises 36 countries. It streamlines cross-border direct debit transactions by establishing a standardized framework and simplifying the process for both creditors and debtors.

There are two main types of SEPA Direct Debit schemes:

  1. SEPA Direct Debit Core (SDD Core): This scheme is designed for both consumer and business-to-business transactions. In this scheme, consumers have the right to request a refund for any authorized transactions within eight weeks, without providing a reason.
  2. SEPA Direct Debit Business-to-Business (SDD B2B): This scheme is specifically designed for business-to-business transactions. The debtor in the B2B scheme has a shorter period to request a refund and must provide a reason for the refund request.

To initiate a SEPA Direct Debit transaction, the following prerequisites must be met:

  1. Creditor Identifier (CI): The creditor must obtain a unique Creditor Identifier from their respective national authority. The CI is used to identify the creditor in all SEPA Direct Debit transactions and helps maintain a clear audit trail.
  2. Bank accounts: Both the creditor and debtor must hold bank accounts with financial institutions located within the SEPA zone.
  3. SEPA-compliant bank: The debtor's and creditor's banks must be SEPA-compliant, meaning they can process SEPA transactions according to the established rules and regulations.
  4. SEPA Direct Debit Mandate: The debtor must sign a mandate authorizing the creditor to collect payments from their bank account. The mandate must include specific details such as the debtor's bank account information, the CI of the creditor, and the terms and conditions of the agreement.
  5. Notification: The creditor must notify the debtor of the upcoming direct debit transaction, including the amount and due date, in accordance with the rules of the specific SEPA Direct Debit scheme being used.
  6. Submission of the transaction: The creditor must submit the direct debit transaction to their bank in the prescribed format (ISO 20022 XML). The creditor's bank then forwards the transaction to the debtor's bank for processing.
  7. Execution of the transaction: The debtor's bank verifies the validity of the mandate and the availability of funds before executing the transaction. If successful, the funds are transferred from the debtor's account to the creditor's account.

Automated Clearing Houses (ACHs)

Automated Clearing Houses (ACHs) are electronic payment systems that process and settle large volumes of credit and debit transactions, typically involving low-value, non-urgent payments. ACHs facilitate the clearing and settlement of transactions between banks and other financial institutions within a specific region or country, providing an efficient, cost-effective alternative to paper-based payment methods, such as checks.

Some of the largest ACHs in Europe include:

  1. STEP2: Operated by EBA Clearing, STEP2 is a Pan-European ACH that processes SEPA Credit Transfers (SCTs) and SEPA Direct Debits (SDDs) across the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). STEP2 is one of the largest ACHs in Europe, connecting banks and financial institutions across the entire SEPA region.
  2. BACS (Bankers' Automated Clearing Services): BACS is a UK-based ACH that processes electronic credit transfers and direct debits in British pounds. BACS processes millions of transactions daily, including salary payments, pensions, and government benefits.
  3. Equens: Equens is a European payment service provider that operates an ACH, processing euro-denominated credit transfers and direct debits within the SEPA region. Equens is a subsidiary of the Italian company SIA Group.

Some of the largest ACHs globally include:

  1. The Automated Clearing House (ACH) Network in the United States: The ACH Network is a nationwide electronic payment system that processes large volumes of credit and debit transactions in the United States. It is operated by two main ACH operators, The Clearing House (TCH) and the Federal Reserve. Transactions processed through the ACH Network include direct deposits, bill payments, and business-to-business payments.
  2. BECS (Bulk Electronic Clearing System) in Australia: BECS is an Australian ACH that processes electronic credit transfers and direct debits in Australian dollars. BECS is operated by the Australian Payments Network (AusPayNet), which is the self-regulatory body for the Australian payments industry.
  3. NETS (National Electronic Funds Transfer System) in India: NETS is an Indian ACH that processes electronic credit transfers and direct debits in Indian rupees. NETS is operated by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), which is the umbrella organization for retail payment systems in India.

In summary, Automated Clearing Houses (ACHs) are electronic payment systems that process and settle large volumes of credit and debit transactions, typically involving low-value, non-urgent payments. Some of the largest ACHs in Europe include STEP2, BACS, and Equens, while globally, the ACH Network in the United States, BECS in Australia, and NETS in India are among the largest.

Similarities and differences between KTT and SWIFT transfers. 

Both are communication systems used for transmitting payment instructions between banks, but they differ in terms of technology, security, and adoption.


  1. Purpose: Both KTT and SWIFT transfer-instructions are used to send payment orders between financial institutions across borders. They facilitate the exchange of information and instructions necessary for completing international transactions through Nostro-Vosto corresponding bank accounts.
  2. Standardization: Both systems rely on standardized message formats to ensure that financial institutions can accurately interpret and process the information being transmitted.


  1. Technology: KTT transfers-instructions rely on telex technology, which is an older communication system that uses teleprinters to send text-based messages. SWIFT transfer-instructions, on the other hand, utilize a more modern, secure, and efficient digital messaging system.
  2. Security: SWIFT instructions are considered to be more secure than KTT instructions due to the use of advanced encryption methods and secure protocols. KTTs, being based on older telex technology, are more vulnerable to potential security risks.
  3. Speed: SWIFT messages are generally faster than KTT messages. The digital nature of SWIFT messaging allows for quicker transmission and processing of payment instructions, while KTT instructions can be slower due to the limitations of telex technology.
  4. Adoption: SWIFT is the globally dominant financial messaging system, with over 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries and territories participating in its network. KTT transfers, meanwhile, are less commonly used today, having been largely replaced by the SWIFT system.
  5. Message Types: SWIFT supports a wide range of message types, including those related to payments, securities, trade services, and foreign exchange, among others. KTT transfers, in contrast, have a more limited scope, focusing mainly on payment instructions.

In summary, while both KTT and SWIFT messages are used for transmitting payment instructions between banks, SWIFT orders are more widely adopted, secure, and efficient due to their use of modern technology. KTT messages, based on telex technology, are less common and less secure in comparison.

A nostro account (short for "nostro vostro account") is an account that a bank holds with another bank in a foreign country, typically in the local currency. These accounts facilitate international transactions by acting as a bridge between the banks involved in a transfer. The term "nostro" is derived from Latin, meaning "our account with you," while "vostro" means "your account with us."

Here's how nostro accounts are typically used in international money transfers:

  1. Initiating the transfer: When a customer wants to make an international money transfer, they approach their bank (Bank A) with the relevant details, such as the beneficiary's name, account number, and the receiving bank's information (Bank B). Bank A informs Bank B as the recipient of the transfer (MT103)
  2. Correspondent banking relationship: For the transfer to occur, Bank A and Bank B must have a correspondent banking relationship, meaning they either have nostro accounts with each other or use intermediary banks that have nostro accounts with both Bank A and Bank B or Bank A has another corresponding bank relationship with Bank C.
  3. Payment instruction: Bank A sends a payment instruction to Bank B, if they have a corresponding bank relationship, or to the intermediary bank Bank C, if not, using a secure messaging system like SWIFT or KTT (MT202). This message contains all the necessary details for the transaction, such as the amount to be transferred and the beneficiary's account information.
  4. Debiting and crediting accounts: Upon receiving the payment instruction, Bank B or the intermediary Bank C debits the nostro account held by Bank A and credits the beneficiary's account with the transferred amount. Concurrently, Bank A debits the customer's account for the transferred amount plus any applicable fees.
  5. Reconciliation and settlement: At the end of the day, both banks reconcile the nostro and vostro accounts to ensure that all transactions have been accurately recorded and settled.

Using nostro accounts in this manner allows for the efficient transfer of funds between different countries and currencies while minimizing the need for physical movement of cash. These accounts also help banks manage their foreign exchange risk by holding funds in various currencies.

Although KTT transfers utilize nostro accounts in a similar manner to other international money transfers like SWIFT, the telex-based communication system makes KTT transfers slower and less secure compared to more modern systems like SWIFT. 

As a result, KTT transfers are less common today, with most financial institutions opting for the more efficient and secure SWIFT system for international transactions.

If you want to know more about how to transfer funds through the corresponding banking system, please get in contact with our Head of Corresponding Banking M. Amri Elarisse