BAFT Blog Header Banner 2917x417
  • A Message from the Chair | March 2021

    by Mark Garfield | Mar 19, 2021

    Tomorrow, March 20, is recognized as the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Spring is a time of change, and the world is facing changes apart from the change of seasons. In our unique professional discipline, we are often expected to explain and instruct our corporate boards, at conference tables, albeit virtually, and to others about the changing world of trade finance.

    It can be difficult to keep up with the latest conventions and standards in finance. Where is a trusted source to go to for those standards? BAFT’s Library of Documents is a great resource to keep you prepared and your expertise up to date.

    Supply chain finance has received a substantial amount of press coverage over the last few weeks. It is a finance structure that I needed to understand better, and BAFT’s CEO, Tod Burwell, directed me to several informational resources at baft.org. Within the Library of Documents, under the homepage’s Policy header, if you navigate to the Industry Definitions and Guidelines section there is a BAFT guidance document “Payables Finance Principles,” a cogent and complete summary of supply chain finance. Under the same Industry Definitions and Guidelines section are additional supply chain finance informational resources and pieces. 

    BAFT’s Library of Documents is a wonderful source for the latest whitepapers, comment letters, practices, procedures, and policies on a variety of topics important to transaction banking. Take advantage of this current and valuable resource for yourself and your organization. 

    Speaking of spring, this time a year ago, the pandemic began to raise its ugly head resulting in challenges, disruptions, and loss of life. A poet once said, “I rejoice in each new Spring for it’s as if it has never been before." My hope is just that, that this new season of vaccines will bring renewal and life to our world. After all, the United Nations designated March 20 as the “International Day of Happiness”. May it be for you and yours.

    Mark Garfield
    BAFT Chair
    Head of Global Financial Institutions
    Zions Bancorporation

  • A Message from the Chair | February 2021

    by Mark Garfield | Feb 18, 2021

    The advance notification for BAFT’s 2021 Virtual Global Payments Conference mentions “the unrelenting pace of change in payments” and “the realities of a continuous 7x24x365 day." These statements emphasize that payments tomorrow will be substantially different than payments today. It also reminds me how payments today are significantly different from payments yesterday. 

    I faintly recall the process to send cross-border payments at the beginning of my career. The steps to calculate a series of codes and numbers were complicated and time-consuming. First, one would input the numerical code for the receiving test bank, add the remitting bank’s unique number, and then add digits corresponding to the month, day of the week, currency, amount, and settlement date. The sum of these numbers would then be sent by Telex and confirmed by the receiving bank. If the key was aligned and accepted, the payment went out. The Telex machine itself seems to be an artifact from a previous era. Yet at the time, communicating throughout the world with codes and messages was new and exciting. It reminded me of learning Morse code as a Boy Scout, sending and decoding messages using flags and mirrors from mountain tops to fellow Scouts below. Fun, but not very effective. As usual, the erroneously decoded message meant the scout troop followed bad coordinates and got lost somewhere!

    While there may be some romanticism in sending overseas payments this old-fashioned way, I am glad those days are gone. The efficiency, safety, and management of payments are much better today than they were yesterday. And, I certainly don’t miss the rows of file cabinets holding paper documentation, microfiche, microfilm, and signatures lists. No one wants those old metal cabinets back.

    Real-time payments, cloud adoption, ISO 20022, digital currencies...so much to discuss and learn. There is a payment revolution and evolution taking place in transaction banking today. Join me next week for BAFT’s Crystal Ball Series: Revolutionary Banking, and BAFT’s 2021 Virtual Global Payment Conference March 2 – 4 for more timely insights. To my banking friends, if we ever have a chance to go on a hike in the mountains together (which I have done with some of you, loads of fun); I promise you that you will not get lost. Why? Technology…a GPS device!  But just in case I’ll bring my trusty old scout compass with me. 

    Happy trails and happy payment rails,

    Mark Garfield
    BAFT Chair
    Head of Global Financial Institutions
    Zions Bancorporation

  • A Message from the Chair | January 2021

    by Mark Garfield | Jan 21, 2021

    After eating far too many treats and goodies each holiday season, I tend to make a New Year’s resolve to abstain from sweets for a defined amount of time. No ice cream, candy, cookies for one month. Well, I made it until January 5th this year when a neighbor brought over some chocolate-covered macadamia nuts from Hawaii. Who can resist that?

    I have to laugh at my many failed attempts to change. What I’ve come to realize, though, is that change inevitably happens, whether I've planned for it or not. My first memories of using a bank as a youth are of standing in very long lines in a bank lobby waiting to deposit cash. The teller would use a typewriter to record the transaction in a passbook. I remember sitting in a non-air-conditioned car on a hot summer day waiting in what seemed like a big traffic jam to finally cash a check at the bank drive-through window. Now I shout hurray for the convenience of making a deposit on my mobile phone and I never ever write a check…hurray! Think of all the changes that have happened in the financial services industry in the past year alone, such as the increase of contactless payments and the shift to remote work.

    The next two events in the Around the Globe: The Crystal Ball Series will give us key insight into what the future may hold for the financial services industry. During this month's event, 'View From The Top', on January 26, three banking CEO’s will share their insight from different geographic perspectives: MENA, Europe, and the U.S. In February, the 'Revolutionary Banking' event will address topics that may be...revolutionary, such as central banks' use of cryptocurrency. 

    I appreciate how BAFT provides us with webinars, conferences, briefings, industry papers and best practices that give a vision of what the future may become. Through BAFT, we glean insight into how banking is evolving in different geographies. Each year, participants in the BAFT Future Leaders Program review and assess current developments and potential opportunities in the transaction banking industry. We then become prepared to not just react to changes but to become agents of change and innovation. 

    I expect to celebrate all the future transaction banking innovations (paperless bills of lading!) that have yet to be developed...and if I happen to receive your gift of Turkish Delight next January, I’m certain that once again I’ll break my yearly resolution and eat it (yum)……hurray!

    Mark Garfield
    BAFT Chair
    Head of Global Financial Institutions
    Zions Bancorporation

  • A Message from the Chair | December 2020

    by Mark Garfield | Dec 17, 2020

    Each year at this time, my wife and I send out seasonal holiday cards to former work colleagues, old high school chums, family, and friends. For some, we’ve had no contact for 40 years other than the giving and receiving of our annual holiday greeting. It’s a joy to receive a card from a long-ago acquaintance with an updated family photo and a simple note. Over time some of my cherished connections were lost. Thus, the address list is of the utmost value. Well, last year, I lost the address list. My wife did not lose it; I did...oops. We tried our best to reconstruct the addresses. But, alas, we lost some connections that we may never recover.

    This reminded me of another prized list: my bank’s RMA list. And like my seasonal greeting card, over the years we’ve lost a few RMAs, which also caused some difficulties. The RMA exchange is the lifeblood for a regional bank like mine to connect with the larger global banking community. It is how a Main Street bank assists a Main Street company in moving products or buying products overseas. The RMA challenge is not unique to my bank. Regional banks in MENA, Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean have all informed me of this significant challenge.

    At BAFT, the RMA issue is a key priority. The association created a working group to identify the challenges and determine possible solutions. Amy Sahm from Fulton Bank, a BAFT Board member and a key leader in this RMA working group, presented some findings from the group at the 2020 Virtual Regional Bank Conference in October. The working group identified current tools that may be useful in our efforts to maintain and grow RMA permissions. There is more to be done and your input or suggestions are welcome as we look at the broader global effect. This winter, BAFT plans to hold an all-member collaborative webinar in partnership with SWIFT to address and assist in this RMA effort.

    I believe that with the help of BAFT, our industry can find ways to keep the RMA exchange as complete and vibrant as possible, allowing for all of us to maintain our valued connections. More to come. And if you didn’t get my holiday card this year, I need your address! 

    May your holiday season be full of joy. 

    Mark Garfield
    BAFT Chair
    Head of Global Financial Institutions
    Zions Bancorporation

  • A Message from the Chair | November 2020

    by Mark Garfield | Nov 24, 2020

    Like many of you, I just attended the 2020 Virtual International Convention.  Wow.  What a powerful conference with excellent content, outstanding panelists and speakers and a format that provided access to experts and colleagues around the world. The event was the largest ever hosted by BAFT…750 attendees from 120 institutions across 30 countries engaged with 55 sessions and 120 panelists, speakers, and moderators. At one point, the programming went for 24 straight hours with a specific emphasis on geographic-oriented sessions that moved around the globe. More exciting than the 24 hours of the Le Mans race. Vroom!

    (Don’t forget you can continue to access the plenary sessions and selected workshops on-demand until December 4)

    This week in the U.S we will celebrate one of our most popular and historic holidays, Thanksgiving. It centers around a meal with family, friends, food, and faith with a focus on thankfulness and gratitude. A few years ago, I was fortunate to be in Istanbul during Ramadan. Each evening, family and friends gathered to share a wonderful meal with the express purpose of thankfulness. I reflected that it was like a Thanksgiving at home, but better as the evening meal occurred over multiple days!

    In that spirit, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the BAFT staff for their tireless effort in managing the International Convention. I would also like to thank the planning committee, moderators, and subject matter experts who make it worthwhile and valuable.

    I am grateful to be a part of the global banking community. Thankful, for the role that each of you play in our crucial responsibility in connecting societies, delivering goods and services, and facilitating trade. We may have to meet virtually rather than in person, but thanks to BAFT we can connect frequently, more easily, and in greater numbers.

    I am most thankful for the friendship and associations I have with many of you around the globe. As I reflect upon the unique obstacles we face today, I continue to marvel at how my banking colleagues have the talent, optimism, and determination to navigate and overcome these challenges.

    Mark Garfield
    BAFT Chair
    Head of Global Financial Institutions
    Zions Bancorporation

  • A Message from the Chair | October 2020

    by Mark Garfield | Oct 23, 2020

    In my history classes in school much of the study of countries and societies centered around the trade of commodities; nutmeg, silk, coffee. In my finance classes, the most popular commodity mentioned in studying market prices was pork bellies. I enjoyed learning about transportation developments from the creation of the Erie, Suez, and Panama canals to move commodities more efficiently.

    Maybe that is why I chose to pursue international banking which supports, finances and transacts the trade of commodities from agricultural products such as grains, nuts, and meat products to hard commodities like essential minerals, oil and gas, and the daily trading of currencies. It has kept every day interesting and fast-paced. Plus, from working with a trading company a few years back I learned that from pork bellies we get bacon!

    This summer brought with it unusual circumstances in the commodities and logistics markets. The spot market in oil was in the negative. Cargo vessels were unable to unload commodities as ports were closed. There were storage shortages and disrupted supply chains.

    This disruption as well as the rapid pace of technological change raises many questions. What are the immediate issues commodity industries are facing? Which commodities will be in the greatest demand in the future? How will they be delivered most efficiently? Where does sustainability fit in? Will there be virtual commodities in virtual currencies? How will our banking industry change to continue to support the exchange of commodities globally? Where are our clients looking to us to lead?

    On Tuesday, October 27, we will have the opportunity to listen to three commodity companies in the second series of The BAFT Crystal Ball Series. It is an excellent chance to hear industry leaders discuss the future of the commodity markets in our ever-changing world. Thinking back to my high school science classes where I used a slide ruler to solve equations in my first year but by my third year, thankfully, I had an electronic calculator...today is moving even faster.

    While this session is hosted in a European and Asian friendly time zone, our members based in North America, like me, can register to receive access to the on-demand recording.

    See you soon virtually!

    Mark Garfield
    BAFT Chair
    Head of Global Financial Institutions
    Zions Bancorporation

  • A Message from the Chair | September 2020

    by Mark Garfield | Sep 18, 2020

    Growing up reading science fiction and watching futuristic shows like Star Trek, people were transported in their personal flying machines and called each other using devices where they could literally see the other person…crazy stuff. I dreamed that one day I could fly around my neighborhood but instead waited in competition with my eight other family members to use one rotary dial telephone line. Today I met virtually with five speakers in preparation for BAFT’s upcoming Crystal Ball Series - Banking Outlook. The speakers resided in New York, Belgium, South Africa, India, and Washington, DC. Talk about space travel.

    BAFT just wrapped up its first virtual conference for the 2020 MENA Bank to Bank Forum to a big success. More than 500 people and 200 institutions joined from 43 different countries to hear representatives from many industry sectors such as big-tech, fintech, pharma, travel, and hospitality. There were more participants than ever before at a BAFT MENA event. From wherever we sat, we heard valuable insights and opinions about the future of various industries, their challenges, and opportunities. It was a global classroom. 

    The irony in this time of isolation, distancing and stay-at-home routines, is that we are meeting and connecting more easily than ever before with people around the world. With my meetings today, I seemed to have traveled around the globe meeting industry leaders discussing both relevant and current topics. For someone that has spent his entire career in in-person meetings, this has been quite a transformation. As was stated in the 2020 Virtual MENA Bank to Bank Forum by various speakers, the speed and pace of change have increased at warp speed these past few months affecting all industries. The question becomes, how does our business adapt and grow in this time of rapid change?

    I look forward to in-person meetings again. I miss cheering in a crowd of a football or rugby match, listening with others at the symphony and outdoor concerts, eating in a popular restaurant, and meeting with you at BAFT events. I will likely never pilot a personal flying machine, that’s probably a good thing, but I will still need to strap on and hold tight to stay current in this accelerated time of change.

    Our next series of events, Around the Globe: The BAFT Crystal Ball Series begins September 29th. This program is organized to provide industry-specific information and insight to navigate our ever-changing and fast-paced world. You don’t want to miss it or you may find yourself left behind with a rotary phone and traveler’s checks in hand!

    See you soon.

    Mark Garfield
    BAFT Chair
    Head of Global Financial Institutions
    Zions Bancorporation
  • A Message from the Chair | August 2020

    by Mark Garfield | Aug 20, 2020

    I fondly remember my first trip to Europe as a teenager in the 1970’s. My wallet was full of bulky traveler’s checks, and my siblings and I would stand in long bank lines to exchange the traveler’s checks for local currency. We paid for everything in banknotes, as cards were not accepted. Upon arriving in a different country, we joined yet another line at another unfamiliar bank to exchange our currency again. It was fun to handle foreign notes with their colors and history. We tried to impress each other on being the quickest and most accurate in calculating each exchange.

    Those days are long gone. My children never use checks, have likely never heard of traveler’s checks, and certainly have never heard of Pesetas! They give no advance thought to payments and conversion when traveling. Their daily financial transactions are mostly digital. When they see me writing a check, they think I live in the “old world” of financial transactions. I remind them that one thing from this “old world” remains the same: the role of the bank is most important in payments processing and continues to be the key mechanism in making secure and efficient payments and currency exchanges globally. 

    BAFT, as the leading international transaction banking association, has recognized the need to place greater emphasis on payments. In 2020, the BAFT Board of Directors approved the payments strategy developed by BAFT’s Senior Vice President of Payments and Innovation, Samantha Pelosi, and established the Global Payments Industry Council (GPIC) as the cornerstone of that strategy. The GPIC was stood up in July 2020 with around 20 members comprised of senior management in global payments from BAFT member organizations. GPIC geographic representation includes Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, MENA, and North America. Congratulations and appreciation to David Kretz, Head of GTS Global Strategy and Payments at Bank of America, who was elected GPIC Chair and Jean-François Mazure, Head of Cash Clearing Services at Societe Generale, who was elected GPIC Vice-Chair.

    GPIC’s primary purpose is to set BAFT’s strategic agenda regarding global payments, to raise and vet issues, initiatives, and challenges, and to ensure proper alignment of BAFT’s payments committees and working groups. GPIC’s formation is a wonderful addition to the BAFT organization. I look forward to what it will accomplish.

    What will payments look like tomorrow? Certainly not “old world,” not likely “current world,” maybe a “whole new world,” or even “out-of-this-world” … and getting there will be fun. 

     
    Mark Garfield
    BAFT Chair
    Head of Global Financial Institutions
    Zions Bancorporation
  • A Message from the Chair | July 2020

    by Mark Garfield | Jul 09, 2020

    June was an eventful and important month for BAFT. Eventful due to the official formation of the Africa Council with the inaugural council meeting on June 17. The Africa Council becomes the fifth geographic council in BAFT joining the Asia, MENA, Europe, and North America Councils. Many thanks to BAFT’s President & CEO Tod Burwell for his vision and outreach, which led to the launch of this important member council. Congratulations to our newly elected Council co-chairs, Ihunanya Onuoha of Access Bank (Nigeria) and Kevin Holmes of Standard Bank (South Africa). Both will represent their respective institutions and the Africa Council on the BAFT Board of Directors.

    ‘What are the important issues to African banks?’ Members present during the first Africa Council meeting mentioned the impact and implementation of the BASEL framework, digitization of trade, education and training, and the ever-important need to maintain and grow correspondent banking partners. These concerns are much the same as mine, representing a regional bank headquartered in the Western US. Whether in the US, Africa, the Middle East or Asia, we have common challenges and a certain kinship as banks transacting global trade. What a wonderful addition the Africa Council is to our membership. A hearty welcome from myself and the rest of BAFT.

    An important undertaking in June was BAFT’s Board decision that the 2020 International Convention, originally to be held in Orlando, Florida, will now be held virtually. It is a big disappointment for me not to be able to meet in person. In my despair, fellow board member Maram Al-Jazireh shared an Arabic saying, “don’t fret over a matter that may actually be in your favor”; kind of like “making lemonade out of lemons” as my mom would say. Many in our banking membership would find it difficult to attend the Convention in Florida in 2020. So, we will be “making lemonade” by presenting the International Convention virtually. Now more of us can attend while remaining in our respective geographies. My hope is we will have greater global participation in November than ever before!

    In June, BAFT’s Trade Finance Workshop was successfully hosted virtually. Additionally, several content-rich webinars were held in April, May and June. BAFT will begin a new monthly series called the Virtual Executive Forum and we will continue to produce webinars on key important topics. The MENA Council will be presenting the Virtual Bank to Bank Forum in September, and the Virtual International Convention will take place in November. As the world changes, BAFT evolves with it. Many thanks to the BAFT Events team during this transformation to a virtual environment and to the many of you who contribute your time, talent, and knowledge in developing these outstanding programs.

    See you virtually soon!

    Mark Garfield
    BAFT Chair
    Head of Global Financial Institutions
    Zions Bancorporation

  • A Message from the Chair | June 2020

    by Mark Garfield | Jun 19, 2020

    Greetings! Firstly, I'd like to say best wishes to you and your families during this challenging and unprecedented time. I hope all of you are safe and healthy. BAFT begins its 99th year as a global banking association during unique and difficult conditions throughout the world.

    As Chair of BAFT, I plan to send a monthly “Message from the Chair” to the greater BAFT membership and hope it is worthwhile to you. It is an honor to serve this great association. The role of BAFT becomes more valuable in assisting our membership in this time of isolation. 

    The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly altered professional work practices, societal connections, day-to-day activities and familial traditions. We, by and large within the transaction banking community, have the good fortune of working from our homes and surprisingly have discovered that it is effective and efficient.

    In February, before many of the stay-at-home orders were established, I was able to visit a large pulse (peas, lentils, chickpeas) processing plant in the northwest area of the U.S. The plant employees were in a flurry of activity to prepare product for export and domestic consumption. Since that visit, demand for pulse products has increased, as noted in a March article in the New York Times. There is immense value in providing pulse products to feed the global population. In addition, the grower, harvester, processor, shipper, packager, transporter and retailer who must leave their homes each day each demonstrate their importance in keeping the food supply moving. 

    I recently spoke with a CEO of a large trading company who told me “the food supply doesn’t stop.” “Our employees are essential in helping the world get fed,” he said. A big thank-you to those who leave their houses each day to perform their work.

    Our global banking role is a crucial link in the supply and delivery of essential products. We are the ones who finance and transact this global supply chain. Our services — collecting on behalf of our clients, making payments, converting currencies, examining documents, mitigating risks, providing capital and more — are the underpinnings of this global food supply chain. Our connectivity, collaboration and industry standards are ever important in normal times but certainly in times of challenge and change.

    I look forward to this next year as we work together in facilitating trade that will culminate with the celebration of our 100th Anniversary next May. The events of today are a reminder that the work and efforts we make are essential in connecting and completing the global chain of trade.

    Thanks to you all, 

    Mark Garfield
    BAFT Chair
    Head of Global Financial Institutions
    Zions Bancorporation