Gottfried Leibbrandt is not the kind of flamboyant character who is under the spotlight very often, if ever. But he holds one of the most influential jobs within the world’s financial system as SWIFT’s CEO, and that’s quite an important office as it’s one of the very few financial institutions that operate in almost every country in the planet.
SWIFT has been around since 1975, and while it’s essential for the world’s flow of money across borders, it’s not really a bank. It’s a messaging system for banks. It was created to provide the means for the world’s banks to send and receive money across countries.
If you’ve ever sent money using your bank account to another country, then you’ve been using the SWIFT system indirectly. The system’s name is something of an irony as it’s not quick at all. Completing an operation can take several days, it’s quite expensive (some banks will charge you a fixed fee, some others will take a percentage from the amount in question), and it’s unreliable on top of everything. It uses 43-year-old technology, developed at a time in which there was no e-mail, mobile phones, computers, the internet, and all those things that we’ve grown used to over the last decades so while it remains the world’s standard, it’s been quite outdated for a long time already.
So that’s SWIFT, and Mr. Leibbrandt is the man who leads it. He’s used his term in office to try and update the system’s technology and bring it to the 21st century. That’s an incredibly hard job. The banking industry is prone to inertia everywhere in the world, and Mr. Liebbrandt has had to persuade all of the 10,000 banks who use SWIFT to let the system become more modern. He considers that his legacy to the institution and he’s getting ready to step down next June.
Ripple, on the other hand, is a blockchain network that’s been trying to work with many of the world’s banks (200 so far), remittance services and other financial institutions so that those international transactions can be carried out quickly (almost in real time), and very cheaply by using the internet and Ripple’s blockchain technologies and platforms and, in some cases, using cryptocurrencies as mediating coins, especially XRP which is the company’s native token.
As Mr. Liebbrandt described his plans for life after SWIFT, Brad Garlinghouse (they were both being interviewed simultaneously) said “Ripple is hiring” out loud which brought about laughs from the audience. But is that a joke at all?
Gottfried Leibbrandt could be huge for Ripple
Having the former SWIFT main man joining Ripple would be a huge thing for Ripple, especially as it’s now facing direct competition from Stellar Lumens. Stellar is using IBM’s support to penetrate the very same market Ripple is seeking.
Ripple has had to work very hard to approach the banks of the world and persuade them of the advantages inherent in their system. It’s been a difficult job that must be app vhyroached one bank at the time, and every bank needs Ripple’s technology to fit into their scheme. So far more than 200 banks in all the continents have adopted Ripple’s platforms in a testing stage, but a handful of them have deployed it for production purposes.
SWIFT’s soon to be former leader could expedite the process of expansion because he already has contacts with all of the 10,000 banks that make up the SWIFT network. His expertise in payments and position in the financial world would also lend credibility to the new technology. That would be critical as the traditional financiers of the world still don’t trust very much blockchains nor cryptocurrencies.
So we don’t know if Ripple’s CEO was joking about hiring. We think he should be dead-serious about that.
[Image courtesy of wikipedia.org]
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