SWIFT is a miracle of 1970s ingenuity and a testament to man's ability to work across cultures and borders. (How many real institutions manage to have Iranian, Israeli and Arab members?) It's also €1 for a 700 byte message, takes £10,000 to set-up with my bank and requires dedicated private line for real-time connectivity.

Is it actually an improvement on everyone running their own XMPP server? The sort of servers used to power Facebook chat.

SWIFT has some nice properties: extreme reliability, store-and-forward (never miss a message) and recording everything for audit purposes. Outweighing this is that it is: insanely expensive, impossible to roll out to small organisations (let alone small devices), routinely intercepted by the US government (although if the USA is this interested in you, that might be the least of your worries!) and cannot support new functionality without a round of ISO standardisation.

On the other hand...

Data Format ISO 20022 Any streaming XML stanza
Proven Scale 9304 orgs, 1.5m/msg day (Jan 2010) Facebook Chat: +1bn msg/day (2009)
Reliability Store-and-Forward Mode Available Messages retried until TTL exceeded
Confidentiality Central records kept End-to-End Encryption Possible
Authorisation 2-factor/Certificate Logins End-User Digital Signatures
Transport Security Isolated Network / SSL Optional TLS wrappers
Push Subscriptions Ad-hoc PubSub Channels
Transport Layer Proprietary Network / Web Client Available Any IP network, normally the internet
Smallest Client Windows PC (not real-time) Most cell phones
Initial Costs €10,200 for 1 year (not real-time) $10/month with GApps

Do we really need a complex proprietary network with a 20 second response time to sent tiny bits of XML around?