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ICC and Swift launch API standards for Bank Guarantees and Standby Letters of Credit

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and Swift have jointly introduced the premiere API (application programming interface) standards for bank guarantees and standby letters of credit.

In an announcement, the ICC revealed that this joint effort consolidates diverse financial stakeholders including banks, businesses, fintech entities, and service providers. Their unified objective is to develop leading industry benchmarks to streamline the entirety of these financial tools, from their issuance to their resolution.

These APIs provide a nimble solution while ensuring standardization and instantaneous transparency. This enhancement will augment interoperability, improve operational efficacy, and facilitate smoother incorporation of banking functionalities into corporate finance, enterprise solutions, and other specific platforms designed for guarantees and standby letters of credit.

Andrew Wilson, ICC Global Policy Director, said “The completion of the standard model API for guarantees and standby letters of credit is a great step forward towards interoperability and digitisation of trade finance. The cooperation with Swift is essential to reach this point, and we are confident it will lead to further development for other trade finance services after a successful implementation phase.

Commenting on the announcement, Shirish Wadivkar, Global Head of Wholesale Payments and Trade Strategy at Swift “The unified Trade Guarantee API standards will facilitate seamless and structured data exchanges, making multi-bank interactions – which is a critical process – much more efficient.

As adoption of the standards accelerates, businesses will also benefit from improved security and liquidity in the guarantees space. This is part of Swift’s continued collaboration with ICC and the community to create a future-ready digital trade ecosystem, anchored in common standards and interoperability.

Samuel Mathew, ICC Banking Commission Steering Group Vice-Chair and Global Head of Documentary Trade at Standard Chartered, said “These API standards for guarantees reflect the technical expertise and collaboration within the working group, and address the reality and needs of the market. The result is a standardised set of APIs with future trade ISO compliance flexibility.

We are confident the industry will adopt these standards for seamless integration and data movement. This API is the first of its kind in the trade domain, and the working group aims to deliver similar specifications for the entire trade product in the near future.

The fresh API blueprint is primed for industry scrutiny, deployment, and assimilation. It harmonizes with SWIFT Message Types (MT) norms and the forthcoming ISO 20022 compliance, assuring a smooth transition for existing trade mechanisms while fostering a forward-thinking execution.

The ICC Banking Commission, the pivotal rule-defining body for the banking sector, is composed of global trade finance connoisseurs dedicated to advancing international trade financing. For those keen on knowing further details about ICC‘s endeavors to unify digital global trade standards click this link.

A comprehensive overview of the API details is available on the Swift Developer Portal.

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  1. One would have to assume that this pilot initiative minimising human intervention, targeting demand guarantees is predicated on the relatively simpler and limited communication steps under MT7 series demand guarantee transactions as opposed to letters of credit transactions. However, paper based guarantees, especially emanating from the Middle East and Asia account for a considerable volume of traffic and more work is required to promote uniformity in format and thereby ease of transfer to an electronic SWIFT medium.

    Greater challenges lie ahead to also design APIs to cover Letters of credit question/answer step processes and to ensure interoperability with other nascent technological platforms being developed to cater for migration to a digital landscape.


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