After Era of Tech Disrupting Global Banking, Swift CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt Steps Down
Image Source: Central Banking

Gottfried Leibbrandt will step down next June the cross-border payment system, from Swift, after spending seven years leading a crucial piece of economic infrastructure from hacking to sanctions on banks.

The cooperative, owned by the world’s biggest banks, is beginning a search for his replacement as chief executive officer. Liebbrandt notified the organization board of his departure Wednesday morning, he said in an interview in Brussels.

A system which directs the flow of trillions of dollars between 10,000 associations, swift, was long a byword for clunky tech. Payments were virtually impossible to track and took days to reach their destinations. Leibbrandt spearheaded efforts stiffen its defenses against crime and to modernize Swift, but also presided over a series of episodes that emphasized the system’s vulnerabilities.

“Swift is in quite different shape than it was seven years back,” stated Leibbrandt, a 58-year-old onetime partner at McKinsey & Co.

He also adds,

“There is always going to be a time to hand over the reins and write a new chapter. I think this is indeed the ideal time.”

In 2016, Swift started requiring banks to install controls to restrict access to their networks, detect fraud, and inform customers when tested, their cyber-defenses performed. This program was partly in response.

In February 2016, cyberthieves stole $81 million by sending bogus instructions via Swift to New York’s Federal Reserve Bank, asking funds owned by the Bangladesh central bank to accounts located primarily in the Philippines are sent by it.

At exactly the exact same time, blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies spawned a bevy of startups offering more traceable ways to send payments. The head of San Francisco-based Ripple Labs Inc.. Derided Swift and stated his XRP digital token would gradually take over.

Leibbrandt counterattacked three years ago by launch a crash program to modernize and hiring hundreds of programmers. Not convinced that blockchain was ready for prime time, Leibbrandt exploited on technologies, like protocols which make it easier for developers at different institutions.

FedEx-Style Tracking

In 2017, Swift launched a product that enables member banks track payments in much the same way FedEx packages are followed by consumers. It is now used in over half of the countless payments that utilize the network daily of days of the payments on Swift reach their destination.

“This shows you can innovate as an incumbent,” said Leibbrandt, a Dutchman with a taste for understatement.

Yawar Shah, the chairman of Swift’s board, said he’s sorry to see Leibbrandt go.

“I would have liked him to stay longer,” said Shah, a managing director in the institutional clients group at Citigroup Inc. “We have good momentum. At the same time, we have a strong bench.”

Leibbrandt said he is eyeing a return and writing papers on payments systems — one of the hottest businesses in fund as online trade booms.

The executive might be more sanguine leaving behind the political pressures facing Swift, which unlike the challenge that is tech, he had scope.

Swift was caught in a diplomatic tug-of-war after President Trump chose to drop out of the accord to curb Iran’s nuclear program. The White House demanded Swift disconnect Iran’s central bank and other creditors — as it did during a previous period of sanctions — even as a law directed companies to preserve those ties.


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