December 9, 2022

SWIFT May not exist in five years: Mastercard CEO

SWIFT May not exist in five years: Mastercard CEO

Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach discussed the future of cross-border payments and CBDCs at the World Economic Forum

By Shashank Bhardwaj


A file image of Michael Miebach, the CEO of Mastercard. Miebach was a part of a panel on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) at the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit hosted by the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC); Image: Pacific Press/ Getty Images

Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach had people exclaim ‘ooh’s and aah’s’ when he said no to a question about whether SWIFT would exist after five years. Miebach was a part of a panel on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) at the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit hosted by the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC). SWIFT is the current interbank messaging system for cross-border payments.  

The panel discussed the potential of CBDCs and the future of cross-border payments in the financial system. While on the panel, Miebach said, “ If you can get a payment with all the data attached that you need as a company […] the cost savings of that in addition to a payment cost that is lowered, and the overall productivity boost, we can expect if we do this well, that’s the real goal here.”

At the conference, crypto was a frequent mention in panel discussions adjacent to the industry. Crypto is gathering steam as a subject in the conference due to the presence of crypto companies on the promenade, which is the main street leading up to the Congress, where all the official WEF panels occur. 

While Miebach was the only expert on the panel that expressed dissent on SWIFT being a dominant cross-border system in the near future, other panel members said that SWIFT was here to stay. The other members on the panel were Jennifer Lassiter, executive director of the Digital Dollar Project; Yuval Rooz, the CEO of Digital Asset; David Treat, a director at Accenture and co-founder; and Jon Frost, senior economist at the Bank of International Settlements. All these panel members were in favour of SWIFT being a part of the financial system. 

Miebach expressed his belief at the summit that SWIFT may not be the only dominant system in the future to transfer money across borders. Rooz and Lassiter also thought that the system might be replaced in the future but felt five years were not enough time for the change to happen. 

Once the panel was over, a Mastercard spokesperson downplayed Miebach’s statement in an email: “Let us clarify the intent of the on-stage comment, as it’s not as simple as a yes or no answer. Michael was simply reinforcing what SWIFT has previously said – their operations continue to evolve. Its current form will not be the same in the future. They are adding more functionality and moving past just being a messaging system.”

Shashank is the founder at yMedia. He ventured into crypto in 2013 and is an ETH maximalist. Twitter: @bhardwajshash