Recent Updates

What is Correspondent Banking?

June 29, 2024July 15th, 2024No Comments
Mariel Rhetta
Content Strategist at Rutland FX
Published on: (Updated ) - minute read

If you run a small business that makes international payments or need to send money internationally as an individual, you may have heard the term “correspondent banking.” While it might sound complex, understanding the basics can help you understand international payments better. This article will explain what correspondent banking is in simple terms.

Making International Payments?

Request a Free Quote

Get competitive exchange rates, no payment fees, and most of our SWIFT GPI payments arrive within an hour.

What is Correspondent Banking?

Correspondent banking is a system that allows banks to make international payments even when they don’t have a branch in the country where the payment needs to go. It works through relationships between banks around the world. These relationships enable your bank to send money to a foreign bank and make sure it gets to the right place.

Key Terms Explained

Nostro Account:

Think of this as your bank’s account with a foreign bank. For example, if your in the UK and you bank with Barclays Bank PLC, they might have a US dollar account with a US bank. This account is called a “nostro account,” which means “our account on your books.”

Vostro Account:

This essentialy the same as the Nostro account however its from the perspective of the US bank, so the US bank would call Barclays’s USD account with them a Vostro account. In simple terms, it’s “your account on our books.”

Mirror Account:

Your bank keeps a record of the transactions made through the nostro account. This record is called a “mirror account” because it mirrors or reflects the activity in the nostro account.

How Does a Correspondent Banking Transaction Work?

Let’s walk through an example to make it clear:

Initiating the Payment:

Suppose Rolls Royce, a company in the UK, needs to pay Mitsubishi in Japan in US dollars. Rolls Royce’s bank, Barclays, doesn’t have a branch in Japan, so it uses correspondent banking.

Using the Nostro Account:

Barclays has a nostro account in the US with a bank like JP Morgan. When Rolls Royce makes the payment, Barclays debits Rolls Royce’s account in pounds and credits its nostro account in dollars at JP Morgan.

Sending Instructions:

Barclays sends payment instructions to JP Morgan, telling it to debit the dollars from Barclays’ account and send them to another US bank, say Citibank, which is the correspondent bank for Mitsubishi’s bank in Japan, Mizuho Group.

Completing the Payment:

JP Morgan debits Barclays’ account and credits Citibank’s account. Citibank then informs Mizuho Group that the payment has been received. Finally, Mizuho Group credits Mitsubishi’s account in Japan.

Benefits of Correspondent Banking

Correspondent banking offers several benefits, including global reach, efficiency, and cost management. Even if your bank doesn’t have a branch in the country you’re sending money to, it can still make payments there, thanks to the global network of correspondent banks. This system allows for quick and reliable international transactions.

Things to Keep in Mind

When you make an international payment via your bank or a provider like Rutland FX that uses correspondent banking, it’s important to be aware each bank involved in the transaction may charge a fee and International payments can take a few days to process if there are many correspondent banks on the payment route, so plan your payments accordingly to avoid any delays.

What is an Intermediary Bank?

Intermediary banks are essential players in the international banking system, but they serve slightly different roles. Intermediary banks act as middlemen in the transfer process when there is no direct relationship between the sender’s and recipient’s banks. They facilitate the movement of funds and ensure the transaction reaches the beneficiary bank, typically handling transactions involving a single currency. Intermediary banks are often domestic, meaning they operate within the same country as the sending or receiving bank.


In contrast, correspondent banks have direct relationships with other banks, allowing them to hold accounts (nostro and vostro) for one another. These banks can handle transactions involving multiple currencies and often manage several types of transactions for the domestic bank, such as wire transfers, deposits, and document coordination. Correspondent banks typically operate internationally, providing services across different countries. In some countries, correspondent banks are simply considered a type of intermediary bank. However, the main distinction lies in the number of currencies handled and their operational scope: correspondent banks typically work with multiple currencies and across borders, while intermediary banks usually deal with one local or domestic currency and operate within the same country.


Correspondent banking might seem complex, but it simply means your bank uses its network of foreign banks to send money internationally. By understanding the basics, small business owners and individuals in the UK can better manage their international payments. Next time you need to send money abroad, you’ll know a bit more about how it all works and what to expect.

Making International Payments?

Rutland FX can help you reduce the cost of cross-border payments. Call us on 0203 026 0112 or request a callback below to discuss your requirements.