Know Your Customer (KYC) is a common industry challenge, draining time and resources from banks and corporates. During Sibos, which takes place between 23-26 September in London, Marie-Charlotte Henseval, Head of KYC Compliance Services at SWIFT, writes that it’s time the industry collaborates to create a one-stop-shop for both banks and corporates.

To be frank, the Know Your Customer (KYC) process has previously been a burden for everyone involved. It can be time-consuming, repetitive and extremely costly.

Corporates using the services of multiple banks face an uphill battle to comply with numerous KYC requirements.

Moreover, it’s not getting any easier. The regulatory landscape is evolving fast, making navigating KYC requirements increasingly problematic.

While there have been many proposed solutions, most have struggled to deal with the increased complexity and are not fit for purpose.

To create a solution once and for all, global financial institutions and multinational corporations need to collaborate, and agree upon one centralised utility. Otherwise, they risk further fragmentation and complexity.


The KYC data issue

KYC has always been a slow process. Before the digital age, governments would put out their lists of sanctioned entities and compliance teams would manually check new customers to make sure their records were clear.

Despite the digital revolution, the process remains repetitive, lengthy and cumbersome. Research shows that banks take an average of 24 days to complete the customer on-boarding process.

The problem lies in the data. If data isn’t standardised, up to date and stored correctly, it’s very difficult to process. This is central to the problem in the world of KYC – data is incomplete, out of date and held in multiple databases.

This means banks have to utilise many different sources including trade registers, stock exchanges and bilateral exchange platforms for this information and, in many cases, are forced to repeatedly follow up with their corporate customers. Corporates, on the other hand, have to repeatedly provide banks with several documents in multiple formats and undergo repetitive bilateral exchanges with each of its banking partners.

It’s a particular challenge for global corporates that use a range of banks in different jurisdictions around the world, with whom they need to, often individually, exchange information to enable KYC checks.

The absence of uniformity, differing jurisdictional requirements and the lack of standardised data across the corporate KYC space places severe pressure on the relationship between banks and their corporate clients.


Ripe for disruption

Many see new technology being the key that will solve this problem and disrupt current service providers. For example, to some this problem seems like the perfect use case for blockchain. However, it is uncertain whether there is any added value from using this technology because, in its current format, there is nothing it would solve that a centralised KYC database hasn’t already. The SWIFT KYC Registry, with over 5,500 users across 200 countries, has proven to be a very successful solution.

Other innovators in the space have set up regional utilities that cater for the local needs of smaller institutions across a specific region. We see this as a positive development as it simplifies the KYC process for firms doing business in these regions.

That said, the whole point of a regional utility is the very fact it’s regional. It alone won’t solve the problem for everyone.



With this in mind, we are opening up the SWIFT KYC Registry later this year to corporates globally.

This will create major efficiencies for corporates, enabling them to use one central repository to upload and maintain their KYC information in a standardised way, eliminating costly bilateral exchanges with the banks.

Through the registry, banks will have access to the Wolfsberg Group’s Correspondent Banking Due Diligence Questionnaire (CBDDQ). This enables them to implement an enhanced and reasonable standard for cross-border and other higher risk correspondent banking due diligence needs, reducing any additional data requirements.

The corporate universe is vast, so we want to ensure that we approach it in the right way. Our initial focus will be the 2,000 corporates that are connected to SWIFT, because we know them. The ambition is then to extend beyond SWIFT-connected corporates at some point.

Once it’s opened to corporates, we will then start exploring collaboration with the regional utilities. We see them as partners that can be plugged into or integrated with the KYC Registry in order to provide a full customer experience to banks.

Ultimately, what we want is a one-stop-shop for banks to access information about all their clients, irrespective of their size.

Through our working group and engagement group, we are currently working with over 100 corporates and banks to design and roll-out the KYC Registry for Corporates solution. If you’d like to get involved, sign up to our engagement group here.

To find out more and contribute to the debate around KYC, take a look at for more details on the exciting programme we have lined up and information on how to register.