On an average day, General Electric's treasury workstation processes about 7,500 wire transfers. When things heat up at the end of a quarter, that number doubles. The importance of wire transfers to the $182.5 billion company had led treasury to mull what would happen if one of its primary banking partners experienced a money transfer system failure. Then, the unthinkable occurred. "It was a Monday morning in June 2008," recalls GE deputy treasurer Dennis Sweeney.
The previous weekend, the money transfer bank had upgraded its software. Something was amiss, however. "When we got to the office we realized a predicament--a queue of wire transfers we had sent the bank via SWIFT were stuck in the funds transfer complex," Sweeney says. "We halted sending wires to the bank, so as not to exacerbate the problem while the bank tried to bring its systems online. However, they could not confidently predict when or if they could bring their system back up, and the clock was ticking."