SWIFT MT103 202 Cover payment analysis – part 3

After the introduction and analysis of SWIFT cover and serial payments, we are now looking at one concrete example of SWIFT MT103 announcement and MT202 cover payment. In the first article of this series, we performed a detailed analysis of a MT103 announcement sent by the debtor bank to the creditor bank. In the second article, we studied the SWIFT MT202 COV sent by BNP Paribas to its correspondent. Now we want to know what after the first SWIFT MT 202 COV is received. How is it forwarded to the next party in the chain? and what is the content of that message? This article will respond to these questions.

It is worth looking at the picture depicting the messages and the different parties again. It is the same as the one we saw in the previous article but with light differences.

MT103 202 analysis - MT202 Cover sent by Sender's correspondent

MT103 202 analysis – the MT202 Cover sent by Sender’s correspondent

It is important to note that we are now looking at the second SWIFT MT202 COV payment sent by Wells Fargo, correspondent of BNP Paribas (BNPP). Wells Fargo sends it to Bank of New York which holds the account of the beneficiary institution in USD. The sender’s correspondent in MT103A is the sender. And the receiver’s correspondent in MT103A that was the account with institution in the first SWIFT MT202 COV now becomes the receiver.

A brief reminder of the context: A company in France, customer of BNPP in Paris, wants to send payment in USD to another company in Spain, customer of Banco Santander in Madrid. Since BNP Paribas and Santander are not located in the USD currency zones, the funds transfer happens through their correspondent accounts opened with Banks in the USA. In this example, we assume that the correspondent of BNPP is Wells Fargo and the correspondent of Santander is Bank of New York Mellon. BNPP sent a combination of SWIFT MT103 Announcement and MT202 Cover payment messages for the transfer. And BNPP’s correspondent is now forwarding the transfer to Santander’s correspondent.

The table below contains the fields that are transported in the second SWIFT MT202 COV payment message. An additional column (comments) provides further explanation, so that it is easy to understand each field and what it is used for.

Read this page on the SWIFT formatting rules and Character sets of MT Messages to get additional information and understand what 16x, 4!c and the format of the field options mean.

The third message in our study that is analyzed in detail below is the second SWIFT MT202 COV.

Narratives and notes on this SWIFT MT202 COV message

This SWIFT MT202 cover payment is pretty simple but a careful analysis revealed few interesting things. The following narratives and notes allow to get a deeper understanding of the message content.

Narrative and note 1 (Main purpose of this SWIFT MT202 COV)

The Sender (PNBPUS3N) is instructing the receiver (IRVTUS3N) to  debit sender’s account and credit the account of BSCHESMM, the beneficiary institution. As indicate on the picture, this transaction can happen through a local clearing system that interconnects the bank in a country or region. In that case, funds are transfered between banks through the clearing systems like domestic payments. All the information is forwarded to the next party. It is just in a different format.

Narrative and note 2 (Meaning of COV in the  MT202 cover payment)

The Block 3 of the message carries a Validation flag (Tag119) to indicate it is a cover payment. That means this MT202 is related to underlying Customer Credit transfer message. In case there is no underlying customer payment, Banks should use the normal MT202.

MT202 COV has 2 sequences in the message format: Sequence A which contains the MT202 COV payment transmission details and Sequence B which contains the MT103 message details. The sequence B (Underlying Customer Credit Transfer Details) in the MT202 COV must contain at least Ordering Customer and Beneficiary Customer information and must match exactly the ones provided in the MT103 Announcement.

Narrative and note 3 (Unique End-to-end Transaction Reference in this SWIFT MT202 COV)

The MT202 Cov contains exactly the same unique End-to-end Transaction Reference as the MT103 Announcement and the first SWIFT MT202 COV. This shows that even if three payment messages (An announcement and two covers) have been exchanged, it is the same transaction.

Narrative and note 4 (Fields in this SWIFT MT202 COV)

  • Sender of 2nd MT202 COV = Sender’s correspondent 53A of MT103  = PNBPUS3N. It holds the USD account of BNPAFRPP.
  • Receiver of 2nd MT202 COV = Field 54A (Receiver’s correspondent) of MT103 Announcement = IRVTUS3N.
  • Transaction reference (:20:202PNBPREF2679) specific to this SWIFT MT 202 COV is generated by the Sender PNBPUS3N.
  • Related reference in MT202 Cov (:21:103REF405775) = Sender’s reference in the MT 103 (:20:103REF405775). It is the same related reference that was provided in the first MT202 COV. It can be used to reconcile the cover with the announcement.
  • Field 52A (Ordering institution) is provided by PNBPUS3N to inform IRVTUS3N that the initial instruction was given by BNPAFRPP. Without it, the receiver would wrongly assume that PNBPUS3N is the ordering institution.
  • Field 57A (Account with Institution) is not present in this SWIFT MT202 COV – That indicates that receiver IRVTUS3N has an account relationship with the sender PNBPUS3N.
  • Field 58A (Beneficiary Institution) = BSCHESMM is customer of the receiver since F56 and F57 are not present.

Now we are done with the analysis of announcement and cover payments. But other questions still remain: what are the MT910 and MT950 that we see between Receiver and Beneficiary institution? What are these messages used for and what do they contain? These questions will be answered in next articles.

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15 Responses to SWIFT MT103 202 Cover payment analysis – part 3

  1. Oana November 12, 2018 at 1:52 pm #

    Hello Jean Paul, thank you for writing these series of articles. They are very good documentation and very helpful. I would like to ask two questions related to this article, if possible.

    1. “Field 57A (Account with Institution) is not present in this SWIFT MT202 COV – That indicates that receiver IRVTUS3N has an account relationship with the sender PNBPUS3N.” – why does the absence of Field 57A mean that there is an account relationship between Sender and Receiver? I would have thought that it would be a sign of account relationship between Receiver and the Beneficiary Bank (since there isn’t any other Bank to forward the message to, so lack of 57A).

    2. I am confused regarding how the transfer of funds happen between Sender PNBPUS3N and Receiver IRVTUS3N. Does the Sender hold the account of the Receiver? Does the Receiver hold the account of the Sender? What is the role of the local clearing system?

    Thank you very much.

    • Jean Paul November 12, 2018 at 5:58 pm #

      Hi Oana,

      Below the answers to the questions; let me know if things are still unclear.

      Point 1: First, a SWIFT message is exchanged between 2 Banks. The sender may have an account relationship with the receiver or not. Serial message are exchanged only between banks that have an account relationship. Second, in the SWIFT standard you read :”When field 57a is not present, it means that the Receiver is also the account with institution.” So the sender would have added it if the receiver was not the account with institution. And the message is a serial message. So sender has account with receiver.

      Point 2: It is other way around. The sender has an account with the receiver and is saying to the receiver: Please debit my account with you and credit the account of the beneficiary mentionned in the field 59.” This is how you should understand it. What I show on the picture are the options to send the funds to the receiver. Either the sender sends a MT103 message directly if it has account relationship with the receiver or the sender goes through a clearing system.

      I hope it clarifies the things.

      BR, Jean Paul

  2. Oana November 14, 2018 at 4:59 pm #

    Dear Jean Paul, thank you very much for your prompt answers. I still have some things unclear regarding the points above. If you have the time to look over these questions, it would be really useful for me. 🙂
    (Points 1 and 2 are related to same points above)

    1. I understand what you said, however, is this a serial payment? I thought it is a cover payment going through a clearing system (if my understanding is correct). Does the Sender have an account with the Receiver? If the answer is “yes”, I think I understood the transfer of funds here.

    2. This is to verify if my understanding is correct regarding the transfer of funds if the Sender (Wells Fargo) has an account with the Receiver (New York Mellon):
    – Step 1: After the first MT202COV, Wells Fargo debits the account of BNP Paribas and credits its own account. Wells Fargo then sends the second MT202COV
    – Step 2: the account of Wells Fargo with New York Mellon is debited and the account of Santander with New York Mellon is credited.

    I apologize if I asked silly questions. I still have to read and understand how clearing systems work.
    Thank you very much for your support and your willingness to help.

    • Jean Paul November 15, 2018 at 12:34 pm #

      Hi Oana,
      There is no silly question. 🙂

      Point 1: If we consider this MT202 COV independently of everything else, then it is a serial payment. Sorry if it was not very clear.
      Of course the MT202COV is sent as cover for an announcement sent directly to the beneficiary. But considered itself, it is a serial payment.
      In this payment, wells fargo is instructing Bank of New York:”take funds from my account or receive funds through the CSM if it is through a CSM. The funds should be credited to the beneficiary. For a serial payment, both banks must be interconnected either directly or through a CSM and that is the case here.

      Point 2: Your understanding is correct.
      The first MT202 Cov is an instruction From BNP Paribas to debit his own account with Wells Fargo. Funds should be credited to Bank of New York (BNY).
      So When Wells Fargo receives the first MT202COV, it debits BNP Paribas account and credit an internal account and then instructs BNY to debit Wells Fargo’s account and credit Santander’s account. If you give me 100 USD, I put it in my pocket. I can ask a friend living 500 Km away who owes me 100 USD to give it to someone. At the end of the day, that someone gets the money and everyone is happy. That is how correspondent banking works.

      I hope things are clearer now. No not hsitate if you have additional questions.

  3. Oana November 15, 2018 at 4:36 pm #

    Thank you very much, Jean Paul. This made things very clear. I also read in the meantime the articles about Clearing and Settlement, and I understood more about the role of the CSM. Your articles are of great help!

  4. Oana November 16, 2018 at 1:37 pm #

    Hello Jean Paul, I just finished the “MT103 Serial payments analysis” articles and I would like to verify a certain thing. I observed that in MT103 and MT202COV the meaning of field 57a is different:

    – in (first) MT103 of a serial payment: field 57a (account with institution) is the bank holding the beneficiary’s account; field 56 is the intermediary institution (the correspondent bank of the creditor bank in field 57a)

    – in MT202COV payment: field 58a holds the beneficiary bank holding the beneficiary’s account, while the “account with institution”, so field 57a, is the correspondent bank of the beneficiary bank.

    Is my understanding right? Thank you so much for all your support!

    • Jean Paul November 17, 2018 at 1:48 pm #

      Hi Oana,

      I like your comments because they remind me the difficulties I had whe I started. Keep searching and you will find.

      Let’s get back to the field 57a. You are right for the two points 🙂 But I will give additional comments to make the things even easier. 🙂
      According to the Swift standard: the field 57 specifies the financial institution which services the account for the beneficiary customer.
      The beneficiary customer can be individuals but also financial institutions. MT202/COV is a message used to move funds between financial instituions.
      So when using a MT202COV the sender is sending money to the bank which holds the account of the final beneficiary customer. In the MT202 COV, the 57a is the correspondent bank of the beneficiary bank. But since it is a MT202COV, the funds are for a customer of that bank. So the beneficiary bank receives funds on its account with its correspondent and credits the account of the beneficiary it holds. Remember what I said on a previous comment: “If you give me 100 USD, I put it in my pocket. I can ask a friend living 500 Km away who owes me 100 USD to give it to someone. At the end of the day, that someone gets the money and everyone is happy.” That is how correspondent banking works in simple terms.

  5. Oana November 19, 2018 at 2:13 pm #

    Thank you very much, Jean Paul, for all your support and clear explanations. I am very grateful! I understood.

  6. Mat January 2, 2019 at 1:33 pm #

    Hi Jean Paul,

    Whats happening if both of the Initial Sender and Beneficiary Institution have the same USD correspondent ?
    Should you send a serial MT103 ?
    In which case a MT103 or MT103 + 202cov should be used ? Is there any limitations ?

    • Jean Paul January 2, 2019 at 10:25 pm #

      Hi Mat, 🙂
      1 and 2) The sender will just ask its correspondent to debit its account and credit the account of the Beneficiary Institution that it holds. In this case a serial payment will be used.
      3) This is not a simple question. Theoretically, either of the methods can be used. American prefer to use the serial method and Europeans the cover method. There are many parameters to take into consideration. But there is one key rule in Europe (We are from Europe): if the initial sender has an account relationship with the receiving institution, a serial method (just a MT103) is used. If not, then a cover method (MT103+MT202 COV) is used. Some banks do not accept the cover method. In that case, the sender has no choice, but to use a serial method.
      Let me know if you have additional questions.

  7. Mat January 3, 2019 at 3:40 pm #

    Hi Jean Paul,

    Thanks for your answer, by the way : happy new year.

    I just need a clarification, I’ll try to adapt my question to your Scheme.

    For Exemple : A Corporate linked to Swift needs to send USD to a non-resident US beneficiary


    In this case I understand that the Corporate will instruct an MT103 to SANTANDER MES and an MT202cov to BNP FR

    BNP FR has the same USD correspondent as SANTANDER ES, then we are in the below configuration:


    Should the corporat send an MT202cov to BNP FR and an MT103 to SANTANDER ES or a serial MT103 ?

    Thanks for your Help.

    • Jean Paul January 3, 2019 at 10:15 pm #

      Thank you very much Mat.
      I appreciate your message and the exchange we have.

      Below are my answers:
      1) Corporations do not send MT103. They send MT101.
      It is up to the bank that receives the MT101 instruction (BNP in our case) to send MT103 only or to send MT103+MT202 COV.
      I wrote few articles about MT101. Check them out when you have time.

      2) Same remark as above: Corporations do not send MT103. They send MT101.
      In this case also, BNP can theoretically choose to send MT103+MT202 COV too.
      I would even say, that is what the sending bank does most of the time. The bank of the beneficiary is SANTANDER ES and BNP does not have an account relationship with SANTANDER ES in USD. If the beneficiary bank would have been JPM CHASE NY, then BNP would have sent a serial payment for sure.

      I hope things are clearer. 🙂
      Happy payment journey and let’s keep in touch.

      • Mat January 4, 2019 at 8:46 am #

        Hi Jean Paul,

        Indeed that’s an intesting exchange we have, some of the coporates have a NOSU status, meaning that they are Swift participant and holding a BIC code. That’s allowing them to send any king of Swift message to their currencies clearer.

        That’s why I was asking you with message the copor should send to its clearer and to the final beneficiary bank if both have the same USD correspondant.

        Have a good day.

  8. Steven January 16, 2019 at 5:02 pm #

    Hi Jean Paul,

    Thanks for your interesting and educational articles. I have a question regarding this scenario (apologies if it’s an obvious one).

    Theoretically, Santander ES could hold multiple US Correspondent banking relationships (e.g. Bank of NY Mellon could also be Bank of America).

    1.) How is the routing of this payment decided at the point where BNP send the MT103/202COV?
    2.) Is it possible that BNP do not know who the receiver’s correspondent is when the MT103 is sent and they send MT202COV and MT103 without this information?


    • Jean Paul January 17, 2019 at 6:55 pm #

      Hi Steven, Thank you for reaching out.
      Let me try to answer your interesting questions.
      1) Banks exchange information about their correspondents in different currencies in SWIFT MT670 and MT671 Messages. These messages are called Standing Settlement Instructions (SSI) and stored in Payment engines Databases. Santander would say in a SSI:”If you want to send me USD, please send it to my correspondent BNY.” When BNP sends the MT103/202 to Santander, the correspondent of Santander in USD is picked from the database and the messages enriched. To keep things simple.

      2) Personaly, I have never seen a case where the sender does not know the receiver’s correspondent before sending the payment. As far as I know, if the sender does not know receiver’s correspondent, he will try to find it out either through services provided by SWIFT or may request the receiver directly to share its correspondent information. If other people have seen something different, please do react to this.

      Back to what you wrote about multiple correspondents. Yes Santander can have multiple USD correspondents. In SSI, it usually provides the preferred correspondent to receive funds. But when sending funds, Santander can choose to settle the payment through the one and the other correspondent in the USA. For example, it can choose to send payments above certain amount to a specific correspondent and payments below that threshold to another.

      I hope this help. Please let me know if you have additional questions.

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