What are SWIFT Codes?

BIC CodesSWIFT codes, also known as SWIFT-BIC, BIC code or SWIFT ID, are Business Identifier Codes as defined by the ISO 9362.


Introduction to SWIFT Codes

Ok, so the opening line doesn’t make make much sense to us non-technical people. Basically, SWIFT codes (this is the most common name for them and what we will be calling them) are a 100% unique identification number for both banking institutions and non-banking institutions.

And yes, SWIFT is an actual acronym. It stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. Their motto is “The global provider for secure financial messaging services.”

So we know they are unique codes for each bank, but what do the banks actually use them for?

Most commonly, they are used for international wire transfers between bank in different countries. However, they are also used for sending secure messages between bank as well. And messages do they send!

The SWIFT organisation has released figures stating that over 25 million messages are sent each day using a SWIFT code. That’s 290 messages every. single. second. Those are some big numbers.

BIC Code FIN Messages

SWIFT Code Stucture

Unfortunately, the identifier doesn’t simply start a 1 for the first bank, then 2 for the second and so forth. It does get a bit more complicated, but the structure of the code allows you to identify many difference attributes of the bank or branch.

Each code has either 8 or 11 characters which can be both letters and numbers. The first 4 characters of all SWIFT codes must be letters and relate to the banks actual name. More often than not it usually looks like a shortened version of their name.

The second two letters (and they must be letters again) relate which country the bank is actually in.

The next two, which can be either letters or numbers, are a digital location code that tells us exactly where the bank’s head office is located.

Finally, the last three characters are completely optional. It’s added in when you are required to specify a specific branch of the bank, instead of the head office.

For example, ANZ bank has different SWIFT codes for the various branches throughout New Zealand. If you wanted to send a message to Auckland, you would use a different code than if you wanted to send a message to Christchurch.

ANZ Branches - South Island

Where can you find SWIFT Codes?

There are a plethora of websites around listings a wide variety of swift codes. If you really wanted, you could give the bank or branch a phone call the simply ask them for it.

Or, you could simply head to our list of SWIFT Codes for banks in New Zealand. Much quicker!