The history of Swish - a 10 year old idea

Ten years ago, nine people gathered in front of a whiteboard in one of Bankföreningens rooms at Regeringsgatan. The topic of the day was “Business image: Credit Transfer Remote Person to Person” a sentence that later became what people know as Swish. Our business developer, Edvind Nygaard, was one of the people in the room.

Ten years ago, as I was working for Swedbank, my colleagues and I often gathered together with representatives from other banks to discuss questions regarding payments and find synergies of different kinds. April 16th 2009 was such a day.

Payments in real time

In a meeting together with Bankföreningen, we tried to figure out how we could meed the demand for simplified payments made in real time. We knew that the demand was there – to transfer money between people and their different bank accounts was complicated and went too slow, and to always carry cash was too unsafe and old-fashioned. We needed something else, something new.

“We already had the answer”

The goal was to create something that enabled people to make smooth and easy payments between bank accounts by using their cell phones. As we started to think about it we quite soon realized that we already had the answer. The answer was an already existing solution between the banks that made it possible for people to charge their prepaid phone cards directly via the bank.

Sollution for prepaid cards

At this time, around fifty percent of all cell phones had prepaid cards. For our customers to not have to queue to buy these cards every time they needed to charge it, we, with help from the mobile operators and a third party, developed a solution that enabled people to charge their prepaid cards directly from their bank account by just entering phone number, amount of money and operator. But what if the same system could enable people to pay each other, by using their phone numbers?

A big step for payments

The idea was discussed with enthusiasm, and we decided to take it further with the banks and some joint groups between the banks. Even though it took around three years before we launched Swish, we were all confident that this could be a big step for the payments industry in Sweden. But that we in 2019 would reach seven million users that use the app more than one million times a day is something that we could never have dreamt of.

Helpful users

Although the idea of Swish has emerged from the banks’ joint development, it is our users who have driven growth and development. I feel extremely proud about Swish having Sweden’s most helpful users. Without your feedback, Swish would not be anything else than an idea about the future of mobile payments on a dull whiteboard at Regeringsgatan in Stockholm.

Edvind Nygaard, Business Developer
April 16th, 2019