Treasury and Payments
Four steps to mastering the new ISO 20022 standard for cross-border payments
The countdown is on. With less than a year before cross-border payments transition to the ISO 20022 international standard, we take a look at what you need to do to ensure you’re ahead of the changes.
As a universal, digital language for payments messaging, ISO 20022 has existed for years. But with the growing digitization of the financial services industry, the need for an international payments ‘language’ has become greater than ever, and uptake of the standard is rising fast – ISO 20022 is expected to be the native language of payments by 2025.
Financial messaging provider SWIFT predicts that in the coming years, ISO 20022 will be the de facto standard for high-value payment systems of all reserve currencies, supporting 80% of global volumes and 87% of value of transactions worldwide.1
SWIFT is phasing in ISO 20022 as the standard for cross-border payments and cash reporting from March 2023. From the end of 2022, the previous ‘MT’ messaging standard will be supported for backward compatibility purposes – but future investments will be focused on ISO 20022 standards.
Benefits of ISO 20022:
- Richer data, which is ripe for analysis and can be used to improve customer experience
- Greater interoperability between different payments systems and interfaces, thanks to a common language
- Lowered costs thanks to establishing seamless, compatible messaging between countries, financial institutions and individuals
- Enhanced reconciliation: faster payments speeds by removing holdups, bottlenecks and ambiguity when sending international payments.
But of course, change can bring challenges. We believe it makes sense to be ahead of the curve to achieve a smooth transition and to be ready to reap the benefits of this new, data-rich standard sooner rather than later. But how? Here’s our four-step advice to mastering ISO 20022.
Four steps to mastering the new ISO 20022
Migration to ISO 20022 is a behemoth of a change program that will touch nearly all aspects of your business. It’s critical to have engagement across all different lines of businesses within your organization early on, and to allocate sufficient resources to the task, getting buy-in across all levels of your business. Significant investment spend will be needed in order to enhance and upgrade existing systems.
As we move to these new standards and new processing systems, it's also crucial to stay closely engaged with key stakeholders and providers of resources and information, such as SWIFT. Progress is being made quickly, and to stay in front of this, we’re advising clients to ensure they are consistently engaged in the dialogue, and to have a good understanding of what is required of them. There are SWIFT national groups, for example, which we encourage clients to actively participate in, so they understand what is needed.
This is a big, multi-year move to standardization, and right now, we’re in the awkward migration period: a three-year period to 2025 where both ISO 200022 ‘MX’ messaging and the existing ‘MT’ language can coexist.
By 2025, ISO 20022 will be the common standard used in end-to-end payment data flows. But we’re witnessing a real degree of divergence in planning, oversight and governance across different market infrastructures when it comes to adopting the new standard. Some countries and institutions are more advanced in their planning than others. Those that fail to catch up in time could find themselves facing delays, confusion and hiked costs. For instance, if your business is still operating on pre-ISO 20022 ‘MT’ messages and a new client has already upgraded to ‘MX’ ISO 20022 messages, if you're not ready for it, you can't support your clients.
Make sure your business has a structured ISO 20022 program, and don’t be afraid to reach out to your business partners for help. At J.P. Morgan, we’re already highly active in supporting and guiding our clients in their migration planning.
The migration is possibly the largest change program the payments industry has ever undertaken. As with any major change, testing will be critical to helping banks gain the assurances they need ahead of the industry taking this major step forwards. Tools are emerging to achieve this: SWIFT has launched the ‘Test Sparring Partner,’ which allows you to participate in an ISO 20022-based transaction, with the Sparring Partner acting as the other bank. So, you can ask the program to play through various scenarios like a serial payment, you can send messages to it, it can send a message to you, and you can play through all the scenarios and start to exercise not just the content of ISO 20022-based messages, but also the flows as well. J.P. Morgan is also planning to provide ISO 20022 testing to our clients. We may also ask about your Testing Sparring Partner experience and scores to help plan our testing.
This is going to be one of the biggest changes that many people can remember in their career, and there is going to be a degree of difficulty as we work through this migration period. Another factor to note is the disparity in process and different requirements from each of the different market infrastructures. We’re witnessing a huge range of approaches from regular reporting and monitoring, to very prescriptive migration paths.
With all these variables transparency and partnership is key to success. Collaboration between clients, partners, and peer banks, for example in agreeing appropriate implementation guidelines, is really important in order for this to be successful during the migration period and until the industry has have fully implemented ISO 20022. From your sales to product teams, your service teams and operations staff, it’s vital to make it clear to your people how critical the migration to ISO 20022 is. It’s also a great time to ask questions of your business and how it stands to benefit from the migration to super-rich payments data. Rather than seeing it as an inconvenience, ISO 20022 can represent a huge growth opportunity for your business. What are the benefits of having enriched data, and how can this data be leveraged? How can it improve your clients' experience? How does it help make better informed business decisions?
Here at J.P. Morgan we will be live on Day 1. We want to complete the transition seamlessly, giving our clients the best possible support and experience through this period. We’re also excited to see how we can explore and analyze the richer data ISO 20022 provides – with the ultimate goal of enriching and boosting our clients' experience.
Our advice in a nutshell? Don’t wait until 2025. The changes are coming fast. Make sure your payments ecosystem can accept ISO 20022 in time in order to make the most of this game-changing piece of global payments infrastructure.
To learn more, contact your local J.P. Morgan representative.
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