Swift is moving into the testing phase of its global payments initiative, saying 21 banks have started a pilot for clearer communication amongst banks making and accepting cross-border payments.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, the global messaging network known as Swift, revealed its global initiative in December of 2015, saying it would initially target the business-to-business payments landscape.

Swift has positioned the initiative as a way for banks to make cross-border payments more transparent through current legacy systems rather than new technology, with the focus on using the same messages, rules and procedures.

"The tight knit group of leading banks will help to spearhead the testing through the pilot and beyond," Wim Raymaekers, Swift's global head of the banking market and project lead for this initiative, said in an April 5 press release.

"As we progress, we aim to incorporate additional innovations and deploy new technologies to this global payments innovation initiative," Raymaekers added.

Brussels-based Swift plans to oversee the testing through December, and share the first results at the Sibos 2016 conference in Geneva in September. The banks participating in the pilot include ANZ, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Bank of China, Bank of New York Mellon, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citi, Danske Bank, DBS, ICBC, ING Bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, JPMorgan Chase, Mizuho, Nordea, Royal Bank of Canada,  SMBC, Standard Chartered, UniCredit and Wells Fargo.

During the testing period, Swift will help other banks prepare to use the standards when it becomes available to all participating banks in 2017.

The business-to-business focus of the first phase will stress same-day availability of funds, transparency and predictability of fees, end-to-end payments tracking and transfer of rich payment information.

Since the start of the year, 51 banks have signed up to work on the initiative and create a new service-level agreement rulebook for cross-border payments, Swift said.

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