SWIFT is the Society for Worldwide Inter-bank Financial Telecommunications. This organization operates a closed network which operates between banks and financial institutions for the purposes of exchanging messages relating to financial information. SWIFT was founded in Brussels, Belgium, in 1973 at a time when it was fast becoming apparent that globalization was a major market force, but banks in various countries were having trouble keeping up with the emerging demand for quickly and efficiently sending money and communicating financial information across borders.
When it was first founded, the SWIFT network operated in just fifteen countries and had less than 300 banks and financial institutions associated with its network. Nowadays SWIFT operates in 208 countries and there are well over 8,000 banking institutions who make use of the SWIFT messaging network.
SWIFT Codes
SWIFT codes are simply a means of differentiating between different kinds of SWIFT messages. The SWIFT messaging network operates using a series of standardized message types. In order to send a SWIFT message, the banking officer simply fills in the appropriate information in the appropriate fields, and sends the message. In order to identify the different types of SWIFT message, there are numbers assigned to each of them. The ‘MT’ prefix stands for ‘Message Type’, and the three digit number that follows it represents a specific message type.

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