With the push for real-time payments gaining momentum all across the globe, Swift must analyze its business model for providing market infrastructure for technology upgrades and new competition.

"In 2014, it [was] essential to analyze and understand the real-time payments trend and gauge the impact it will have on SWIFT and our customers," said Juliette Kennel, head of market infrastructures at Swift. "This is important because we know that this trend will impact both payment market infrastructures and the banks that use them."

Swift facilitates the international exchange of payment instructions between banks, central banks, major securities firms and multinational corporations on a 24-hour basis.

The Belgium-based communication network enjoyed a big win just before the New Year. Australia'sNew Payments Platform (NPP) chose Swift to provide the infrastructure for that faster payments project.

"Australia will prove to be a case study for the rest of the world and will drive innovation in the Australian payments industry for many years into the future," Kennel said. The committee has decided to adopt theISO 20022 messaging standard, which will provide richer data about the transactions flowing over the new platform.

Technology upgrades will be at the forefront of Swift's focus this year. Its goal is to support a higher volume of faster payments. "Over the longer term, we anticipate harnessing these capabilities to support other business areas, generating economies of scale," Kennel said.

And these technology and infrastructure upgrades don't have to cost a fortune. In 2010 Swift made acommitment to reduce fees and in early 2015, the company will issue more than 30 million euros (U.S. $35.8 million) in rebates to the service's users worldwide starting in March.

Kennel has been in the market infrastructures role at Swift for a little over two years, and altogether her experience in the payments industry spans more than 20 years.

Like many other experts in the space, she predicts cybercrime will be the biggest challenge for the payments industry in the next 12 months. As Swift upgrades its technology, it will invest heavily in security as well, Kennel said.

The payments industry is predominantly male, and Kennel says the career choices of each person create a situation that makes it harder to promote female talent. "The number of women that apply to join payments companies is still much lower than the number of men, and even if you manage to recruit an equal number, more women chose to stop working than men, which means by the time you want to promote women into top ranks there is a smaller pool to choose from," she said.

This also leads to a lack of female role models in the top ranks. "When you start your career and can't see anyone that looks or thinks like you at the top, this is not inspiring," Kennel said.

Women tend to ask other women to mentor them but Kennel advises more women to seek male mentors.

Although passion counts more than mentorship, she adds. "If you really enjoy your job, you are much more likely to excel, and that it what will make all the difference."

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