The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, better known as SWIFT, is a global financial messaging service, with its headquarters in Belgium, that enables banks worldwide to speak a common language, when dealing with international bank transfers. SWIFT was founded and became operational during the 1970s and rapidly became a global trusted partner and the main messaging service for financial institutions around the world. Today, SWIFT is connected to more than 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries, processing more than 20 million messages a day on average. Being a messaging platform means that SWIFT sends payment orders to different financial institutions and is not actually in charge in facilitating the transfer of funds. This in turn is done by financial institutions who are either banks themselves or have banking relationships.
In order to identify each financial institution, a standard format was defined and named Business Identifier Codes (BIC), better known as SWIFT-BIC, BIC code or SWIFT code. A SWIFT code consists of 8 or 11 characters, see details below:
- 4 first digits are English alphabetical letters, which represents the financial institution’s code.
- 2 following digits are English alphabetical letters that represent a two-digit country code.
- 2 following digits can be either English alphabetical letters or numerical digits representing the location
- 3 following digits (optional) can be either English alphabetical letters or numerical digits representing a branch code.
An 8-digit code, which is more commonly used, usually refers to the main branch of a financial institution, while the 11-digit code to a specific branch.
To complete an international transaction, with Covercy, to Germany, you will need the following details:
- SWIFT code – 8 or 11 digits
- IBAN – 22 digits
- Full name of account holder
Below you will find an example of the SWIFT structure:
The IBAN structure for a German bank account: