SWIFT yesterday announced that it had registered 82 corporate users, an exact doubling of its corporate users at the 2004 Sibos in Atlanta. 61% of these companies are from Europe, 19% from North America and 20% from the rest of the world.

The numbers are also reflected in the sharp rise in the number of banks offering MA CUGs (member administered closed user groups) to their corporate clients, which now number 95, up from 60 in 2004.

Within SWIFT and the MA CUGS, corporates have started moving on from only using FIN and now are using SWIFT for both FIN and FileAct. Indeed from nothing at the beginning of last year there are now 42 FileAct users, of which 18 are banks and 14 are corporates.

The numbers were revealed by Elie Lasker, who runs the SWIFT's Solutions for Corporates division at an afternoon Sibos session yesterday. Lasker further noted that it is not just the largest corporations who are signing up for SWIFT but medium sized companies are now joining in as well, for whom the relative cost savings of using SWIFT are even greater than for the largest firms.

One of these large firms is EADS, the European aircraft company, which went live on its SWIFT usage just over one month ago. It decided to sign up for the network for the usual reasons of liking the standardization, security and reliability of SWIFT, especially the way SWIFT guarantees all payment deliveries.

According to Andreas Drabert, head of treasury controlling at the firm, EADS now uses SWIFT for its FX and money market transactions, for electronic payments, intra-day account statements and securities settlement. However the main problem that EADS found in moving to SWIFT was in organizing its banking relationships. "The thing that took the most time was signing all the contracts with the banks and with SWIFT for setting up the MA CUGs," said Drabert.

EADS now has six MA CUGs with six banks and all the documents for each differed enormously.

Another firm that is using SWIFT is Yves Rocher Group, a mid-sized French retail company. Before registering with SWIFT it had 105 banking relationships, 550 accounts and 50 different bank account communication systems. Now it has just two MA CUGs and is setting up two more.

"We have benefited from the security of SWIFT," said Laurent Delauriere a director in the firm's treasury department. "It also brings us a lot of transparency."

Although it is still early in the process of linking the world's corporates into the SWIFT network, the initial numbers are encouraging. As more companies become aware of the benefits of joining SWIFT, so more banks will be forced to help them get involved. Only by co-operating with the corporates in this way can banks hope to avoid being disintermediated. "I am very glad that we have entered the SWIFT world," said Drabert. "We have already seen clear gains in terms of quality and efficiency."