Gottfried Leibbrandt will step down June 2019 from Swift, the cooperative cross-border payment giant , after spending seven years leading a key piece of global economic infrastructure through crises from hacking to sanctions on Iranian banks.
Swift, the cooperative, owned by the world’s biggest banks, is starting a search for his replacement as chief executive officer. Liebbrandt notified the organization’s 25-member board of his departure Wednesday morning, he said in an interview in Brussels.
Leibbrandt’s departure from the Brussels-based co-operative comes at a time of intense change in the technology landscape. Swift is facing existential threats on a number of fronts, with rival blockchain-based networks from likes of Ripple, IBM and even Visa promising a new era of low cost real-time cross-border payments, bypassing the traditional correspondent banking routes.
Liebbrandt has responded to the competition with the roll out of Swift gpi, a set of service-level agreements that promise end-to-end tracking and near real-time deliverables of messages flowing over the network.
Rival services are not the only worry facing the co-operative, with the dangers faced from hackers high up the agenda following a string of successful multi-million dollar heists by cybercriminals penetrating bank defences.
Swift, a messaging system that directs the flow of trillions of dollars between 10,000 institutions, was long a byword for clunky tech. Payments often took days to reach their destinations and were virtually impossible to track.
Leibbrandt spearheaded efforts to modernize Swift and stiffen its defenses against crime, but also presided over a series of episodes that highlighted the 41-year-old system’s vulnerabilities.
Swift chairman Chairman Yawar Shah, says of Leibbrandt: “During his time as CEO, the industry has faced unprecedented change and challenges. Gottfried has ensured Swift remains on a sound financial footing, reinforced Swift’s risk and security functions; overseen an overhaul of Swift’s technology; dramatically modernised payments – and at the same time ensured Swift has responded well and wisely to threats.”
Liebbrandt has given the Board six months notice of his intention to quit, setting in motion a search for a successor. Stephan Zimmermann, deputy chairman and chair of the board’s Human Resources Committee, says the organistion will conduct “a rigorous search process which will look both inside and outside the organisation”.
Leibbrandt says that after seven years in the role, the time is right to move on: “I want to thank my colleagues, the Board and our community. My time at Swift has been great from start to finish, and I will miss it – but with the company in great shape and a solid management team in place, the seven year mark feels the right point at which to hand over the reins to a new leader.”
Under Leibbrandt’s leadership, SWIFT completed an ambitious transformation, taking advantage of the opportunities of the rapid technological change, and giving it a strong position in an increasingly competitive environment. This includes the successful launch and take-up of the SWIFT gpi payments service, which is transforming correspondent banking by radically reducing end-to-end duration from days to minutes, making transactions trackable, and laying the foundations for a host of new services through the end-to-end identifier.
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Leibbrandt also oversaw the expansion of SWIFT’s financial crime compliance portfolio and securities services and SWIFT’s successful move into real time domestic payments. All of this supported by SWIFT’s adoption of new technologies including APIs and containerisation. During his tenure, SWIFT’s FIN messaging volumes have nearly doubled, rising from 4.6 billion a year to nearly 8 billion, while FileAct volumes have tripled and InterAct traffic has risen sevenfold. Throughout this time, SWIFT has maintained its track record of excellent operational performance and, in addition, the cooperative has reduced average message prices by more than 60%.
Alongside the implementation of the planned SWIFT2020 strategy, Leibbrandt led the company’s response to cyber-attacks on customers, which started in 2016 with the high profile attack on Bangladesh Bank. He devised and implemented SWIFT’s bold Customer Security Programme, which has delivered immediate results and rapidly become an industry standard.
About Gottfried Leibbrandt
Gottfried Leibbrandt joined SWIFT in 2005 to focus on the development of the SWIFT2010 strategy. Upon completion of the strategy, he was appointed Head of Standards. In 2007, he was promoted to Head of Marketing, where he ran a global organisation responsible for the development and delivery of SWIFT’s strategic initiatives spanning products and services, standards, innovation, banking, corporate and securities market segments. As Head of Marketing, Leibbrandt was also a key architect behind the creation of the co-operative’s SWIFT2015 strategy. He was appointed CEO in July 2012.
Prior to joining SWIFT, Leibbrandt worked for McKinsey & Company for 18 years as a partner in the Amsterdam office and a co-leader of the European payments practice. He holds a Masters degree in Econometrics and Statistics from the Vrije Universteit Amsterdam and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Leibbrandt also holds a PhD in Economics from Maastricht University where he wrote a thesis on: “Payment instruments and network effects: adoption, harmonisation and succession of network technologies across countries”. Leibbrandt is Dutch and married with three children.