SWIFT is the globally preferred, secure financial transaction conduit and Sri Lanka has, for every year of the last five years, sent and received between 20,000 and 22,000 SWIFT messages, these being encrypted communications where even the US dollar amounts of the financial transactions are not shown. Further, there is also a local initiative to be launched within the next three months to upgrade local banks to the ISO 20022 global messaging standard which is expected to become the international standard within the next two years.
Speaking of SWIFT's history in Sri Lanka, Mr. Rajaratne noted that, in 2006, following Sri Lanka being taken off subsidised tariffs for SWIFT, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka took a decision that local financial institutions dealing with US dollar transactions would set up a SWIFT Service Bureau, a company owned by SWIFT clients who shared a single SWIFT connection. This meant that costs would come down significantly because of economies of scale, as well as resulting in a significant savings of US dollars which would otherwise be used to pay individual SWIFT fees, etc.
He added that the next step had been providing a secure SWIFT messaging interface within the local network, which would allow local banks to do away with their infrastructure and costs associated with sending messages and, instead, use remote PCs to use LFSBL's server to send message. Going live in November 2011, the service was already being used by the Central Depositary System (CDS) for share trading, Union Bank, Indian Bank and Indian Overseas Bank. And it would now be offered to all local banks as well as even offshore, such as with banks in SAARC countries and especially Bangladesh where 100% successful testing had been done with domestic banks.
Sri Lanka's single SWIFT service bureau, a hub wherein all SWIFT messages are funnelled, is overseen by Lanka Financial Services Bureau Ltd. (LFSBL), which today counts 34 financial institutions as local customers, and has stated revenues of Rs. 46 million and a profit after tax of Rs. 6 million for the year ending March 2011. It also had a Return on Capital Employed (ROCE) of 22% and a Return on Assets (ROA) of 18% for the same period. This is in comparison to Rs. 65 million start-up capital, and a first-year ROCE and ROA of 47% and 36%, respectively.