A Message from the Chair – February 2021

On February 18 BAFT’s Board Chair, Mark Garfield, published his monthly communication to the wider BAFT membership.

The advance notification for BAFT’s 2021 Virtual Global Payments Conference mentions “the unrelenting pace of change in payments” and “the realities of a continuous 7x24x365 day.” These statements emphasize that payments tomorrow will be substantially different than payments today. It also reminds me how payments today are significantly different from payments yesterday.

I faintly recall the process to send cross-border payments at the beginning of my career. The steps to calculate a series of codes and numbers were complicated and time-consuming. First, one would input the numerical code for the receiving test bank, add the remitting bank’s unique number, and then add digits corresponding to the month, day of the week, currency, amount, and settlement date. The sum of these numbers would then be sent by Telex and confirmed by the receiving bank. If the key was aligned and accepted, the payment went out. The Telex machine itself seems to be an artifact from a previous era. Yet at the time, communicating throughout the world with codes and messages was new and exciting. It reminded me of learning Morse code as a Boy Scout, sending and decoding messages using flags and mirrors from mountain tops to fellow Scouts below. Fun, but not very effective. As usual, the erroneously decoded message meant the scout troop followed bad coordinates and got lost somewhere!

While there may be some romanticism in sending overseas payments this old-fashioned way, I am glad those days are gone. The efficiency, safety, and management of payments are much better today than they were yesterday. And, I certainly don’t miss the rows of file cabinets holding paper documentation, microfiche, microfilm, and signatures lists. No one wants those old metal cabinets back.

Real-time payments, cloud adoption, ISO 20022, digital currencies…so much to discuss and learn. There is a payment revolution and evolution taking place in transaction banking today. Join me next week for BAFT’s Crystal Ball Series: Revolutionary Banking, and BAFT’s 2021 Virtual Global Payment Conference March 2 – 4 for more timely insights. To my banking friends, if we ever have a chance to go on a hike in the mountains together (which I have done with some of you, loads of fun); I promise you that you will not get lost. Why? Technology…a GPS device!  But just in case I’ll bring my trusty old scout compass with me.

Happy trails and happy payment rails,

Mark Garfield
BAFT Chair
Head of Global Financial Institutions