The vast majority of banks and financial institutions worldwide follow international SWIFT standard. SWIFT stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, though is often referred to as SWIFT-BIC, SWIFT ID or ISO 9362. In all instances, a bank's SWIFT code represents a Standardised Business Identifier code, which has been approved by the International Organization for Standardization.
SWIFT codes are unique for all banks and financial institutions worldwide. In instances where non-financial institutions are assigned a SWIFT code, it is known as a Business Entity Identifier.
Interestingly, there is no standardised format for the identification of transaction types and bank accounts with SWIFT, so the financial institutions and banks who participate in the transaction choose their own formats and standards.
ISO 9362:2009 - the most recent update - states that SWIFT codes typically comprise between eight and 11 characters. Four of the letters within the code identify the bank or the financial institution, while two additional letters indicate the country in which it is located. Two further letters or digits represent a more detailed location code, while the final three letters or digits identify the specific branch.