SWIFT codes are unique identifiers for international banks and are used primarily when transferring both information and money from one bank to another, according to TheSwiftCodes.com. The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication controls and regulates these codes, providing them to partners in the SWIFT network.
SWIFT codes are either 8 or 11 characters in length and are specially formatted to provide information regarding the bank's name, country of origin and particular location, as well as whether it is a branch or primary office. Generally, the 8-digit codes refer to a primary office, while 11-digit codes typically denote a branch or remote office, as stated by TheSwiftCodes.com.
The SWIFT organization, which has its headquarters in La Hulpe, Belgium, provides and maintains codes for some 40,000 active members, TheSwiftCodes.com notes. Additionally, there are over 50,000 SWIFT codes that can be accessed by passive SWIFT members and are used for manual transactions.