The traces of a recent wave of cyber bank robberies run from Dhaka to New York to Kiev. But they all cross at a tiny suburb of the Belgian capital city, Brussels.
La Hulpe is where you will find the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT. It’s an organization that sits at the very epicenter of the global financial system – a system that over the last few months has been increasingly under attack.
SWIFT could be considered the backbone of the entire financial industry. If you transfer money from your bank account to somebody else, the transaction will almost certainly run through SWIFT. Up to 30 million messages between financial firms and clients pass through on any given day.
Gottfried Leibbrandt, the chief executive of SWIFT, is a man who would prefer to stay out of the limelight. He rarely speaks to journalists. When contacted by Handelsblatt, he preferred to take questions and give answers in writing.
That doesn’t mean he’s any less aware of what’s at stake.