A SWIFT/BIC code is a standard format to uniquely identify all banks and financial institutions across the world. SWIFT codes are a standard format for Business Identifier Codes (BIC).
If you send money across international lines you almost always need to use a SWIFT/BIC code, as it’s the way banks and money transfer services identify where to send money on a global scale. You can think of a SWIFT/BIC code a bit like an international postal code. Your bank can use the SWIFT/BIC code to find another bank on the opposite side of the world. Like sending post to the wrong ZIP/postal code means it may get returned, the same thing can apply for your money and an incorrect SWIFT code.
A SWIFT/BIC code is either 8 or 11 characters in length:
AAAA BB CC DDD
There are 2 types of SWIFT code: live and passive. Live codes are for banks who are actively connected to the SWIFT network while passive Codes are used for manual transactions. Passive SWIFT codes will have a 1 as the second digit of the 2 character location code.
SWIFT code registrations and management are the responsibility of "Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication" (“SWIFT”) which is located in La Hulpe, Belgium.
SWIFT is the registered trademark of S.W.I.F.T. SCRL with a registered address at Avenue Adèle 1, B-1310 La Hulpe, Belgium.