A Swift Code is the standard format for Business Identifier Codes (BIC) and it's a unique identification code for banks and financial institutions globally. These codes are used when transferring money between banks, in particular for international wire transfers or SEPA payments.
SWIFT code, BIC code, SWIFT ID or SWIFT - BIC (ISO 9362) is a standard format of Business Identifier Codes approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). It is a unique identification code for both financial and non-financial institutions. The acronym SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. When assigned to a non-financial institution, the code may also be known as a Business Entity Identifier or BEI. These codes are used when transferring money between banks, particularly for international wire transfers, and also for the exchange of other messages between banks. The codes can sometimes be found on account statements.
The overlapping issue between ISO 9362 and ISO 13616 is discussed in the article International Bank Account Number (also called IBAN). The SWIFT network does not require a specific format for the transaction so the identification of accounts and transaction types is left to agreements of the transaction partners. In the process of the Single Euro Payments Area the European central banks have agreed on a common format based on IBAN and BIC including an XML-based transmission format for standardized transactions; the TARGET2 is a joint gross clearing system in the European Union that does not require the SWIFT network for transmission (see EBICS). The TARGET-directory lists all the BICs of the banks that are attached to the TARGET2-network being a subset of the SWIFT-directory of BICs.
The SWIFT code / BIC code is made up of 8 or 11 characters, broken down as follows:
Where an 8-digit code is given, it may be assumed that it refers to the primary office.
SWIFT Standards, a division of The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), handles the registration of these codes. Because SWIFT originally introduced what was later standardized as Business Identifier Codes (BICs), they are still often called SWIFT addresses or codes.
Whenever an international transfer is made, a SWIFT code is necessary. It is usually paired with an IBAN (International Bank Account Number). Once the transfer is completed, the bank that receives the money issues a ‘SWIFT message’, a confirmation that funds were received and contains the full information about the transfer.
If you need to transfer funds to pay a supplier abroad, for example, you will need to include a SWIFT code. Conversely, if a customer from abroad needs to send you payment, they will request your SWIFT.
It is therefore an important piece of information to include in an invoice if you have customers abroad. It makes payment faster because the customer will not need to request the information, and ensure that your transfer is secure.
Note that one bank can seem to have more than one bank identifier in a given country for separation purposes. Bank of East Asia separates its representative branch in the US and its US-based operations for local customers into BEASUS33xxx (following the code used in its home country) and BEAKUS33xxx respectively. This differs from its local mainland China operations which are also BEASCNxxxxx following Hong Kong rather than having a separate identifier code.