Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication
S.W.I.F.T. (or SWIFT) stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. It is a non-profit organization comprised of member financial institutions. It was established in 1973 by European bankers who needed a more efficient and secure system for inter bank communications and transfer of funds and securities. Until then, all inter bank communications were by telephone, telex, courier, or mail.
Whereas a Fedwire contains no instructions past the basic funds transfer itself, SWIFT is a messaging service. Each type of message is a condition of wire transfer. One cannot refer to a SWIFT message as a "Conditional SWIFT" per se, since all SWIFT's carry conditions.
SWIFT messages are preset and referred to by category numbers called MT numbers. For instance, MT800's only deal with Traveler's Checks, MT300's only deal with Foreign Currency Exchanges.
Each type of message or condition in each category is preset as well. For instance, there are 89 different messages available under the category MT500. This does not include the occasional sub code.
Certain phrases are allowable; however, but these must be short and to the point, not exceeding a certain number of letters, and the phrases must be acceptable under SWIFT standards.
Each MT category has its own manual of standards. Depending on the size of the financial institution, each department may only be familiar with the MT manual that pertains to wire transfers made by that department.
What this means is that one cannot write SWIFT instructions that do not work with the preset messages and expect the sending bank to accept them, or the receiving bank to respond.
For instance, HIGH-YIELD INVESTMENT PROGRAM fraud often involves wiring funds to a foreign bank in exchange for a PRIME BANK GUARANTEE. Sorry folks, that doesn't work. One can wire funds in exchange for a specific financial instrument, provided the funds are consistent with the cost of the instrument, and provided all the correct arrangements have been made for the issuance of that instrument according to INTERNATIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE rules.
A SWIFT consists of a one-page document containing the name and code of the originating bank, the date and time, the address and code of the receiving bank, the name and internal code of the officer initiating the transmission, the names and numbers of the accounts involved in the transfer, a description of the asset being transferred, the MT category of the transmission, and acceptable, standardized phrases as described above.