There is no better way to lead than by example. SWIFT has shown the financial community in Asia that it is serious when it comes to transformation having undergone an extensive transformation itself.

In January 2005 the firm decided that it was time to combine the banking and securities divisions under one roof. This would not only make internal reporting lines easier but would also help the business.

The reorganization reflects in many ways the trends going on in the industry, where the old divisions between banking and securities are becoming more blurred. Investment managers and broker dealers are now focusing on areas such as treasury much more than before.

Similarly retail banks in the region now are all looking at developing securities arms and so need the cross over of services from SWIFT. As such, clients want a single interface to be able to address the issues they face across their entire business lines. The days of the silo are over.

Equally importantly, the move reflected the change in emphasis within SWIFT itself: in previous years the firm has been concentrating on the migration to SWIFTNet. Now this is complete, the message from the top is that it is time to help clients see what the migration can do for them. Thus, a new, holistic approach was needed.

"The reorganization was needed as we have changed from an organization that was helping customers implement SWIFTNet into a company that helps them use SWIFTNet," says Ian Buckley, head of Asia Pacific at SWIFT in Hong Kong. "We have transformed ourselves from a handholding organization to one that is focused on delivering commercial solutions to our clients."

Among these new solutions that are being rolled out this year are features that deal with cash reporting, trade services, fund automation and exceptions and investigations. These new features come on top of a new focus on implementation support. SWIFT sells its services in a zero cost contract but makes its money from increasing usage. Thus, the more SWIFT can help its customers to use its system, the more it helps itself. It is a virtuous circle.

A further development in SWIFT's Asian operations this year is the new management trainee programme that has been established for young Chinese MBA graduates. The selected management trainees will receive 12 months of training at SWIFT's headquarters in Brussels, followed by a 12-month assignment in the Hong Kong office. They will then be repatriated back to China to help implement SWIFT's regional business strategy. This form of intensive localization of the Asian business reflects trends in the wider financial services scene in Asia.

"In light of our long-term commitment to our users and members in China, it is the right time for SWIFT to proactively look for local staff with a high calibre of management skills to strengthen our China team," said Monisa Wan, regional manager of human resources, Asia Pacific, SWIFT.