Pioneers like GE, IBM and Microsoft built and maintained their own communications infrastructure for connecting directly to SWIFT. But now most companies that join SWIFT outsource the complex noncore activity of running an electronic post office and are choosing a service bureau to do it for them.

Roughly 70% of corporate SWIFT joiners choose a service bureau to avoid the high upfront investment and ongoing operations costs of maintaining their own SWIFT connectivity infrastructure, claims Mary Ellen Putnam, vice president of the international business unit at one prominent service bureau, Las Vegas-based BankServ. "About 80% of the SWIFT costs are associated with having to dedicate resources to implementation, disaster recovery and upgrading the system," Putnam says. "A service bureau can help eliminate 50% to 60% of this cost."

Brian Wedge, executive director and global SWIFT product manager for J.P.Morgan Treasury Services, agrees that most companies joining SWIFT today are choosing to use service bureaus and notes that so do the majority of banks. Many treasury staffs don't realize that many of their banks have been depending on service bureaus for SWIFT connectivity for years, Wedge says.

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