For Paul Tawel, senior manager of treasury operations at Canadian National Railway (CN), the solution was SWIFT but the obstacle was scale. The Montreal-based freight carrier, which was privatized in the 1990s and had C$10 billion (U.S. $9.8 billion) in 2011 revenue, needed to escape the inefficiency of using 12 separate online banking platforms to get reports and send payments. But Tawel couldn't justify the cost of joining SWIFT, the cooperative that provides financial messaging for banks, to get a common communications platform for the company's 12 banks.

Building a SWIFT infrastructure in-house was out of the question, and even using a service bureau was too expensive for CN's modest but real needs. "When we heard that SWIFT would be open to corporate members several years ago, we were interested," Tawel says. "But the solutions then were built for companies that used more banks and had more message traffic than we did." 

There was a cheaper alternative. In 2011, Tawel invited SWIFT representatives to talk about SWIFT Alliance Lite, the SWIFT-hosted solution for small users. What they told him was a revelation: Instead of adopting Alliance Lite, the representatives suggested CN wait for Alliance Lite 2 (AL2), a new product SWIFT was developing that would be hosted on the cloud, could run without the aid of a service bureau and would have none of the limits on transactions and message types that held back the old Alliance Lite. 

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