ISO 20022 – Foundations, Commercialisation, And The Path To Global Payments Interoperability


  • Alex Ross-Wilson, Sophie Dalzell

In the first of our series exploring four key themes to emerge from Sibos 2022, we look at the continued importance of the ISO 20022 standard in enhancing cross-border payments.

The long-standing global ambition for a global payments ecosystem, underpinned by frictionless cross border payments, may finally be coming closer to reality. Achieving this ambition this will take time and the industry should view this journey as a 10+ year strategy with several distinct phases. Broadly, we can categorise these as ISO20022 foundations, data commercialisation, and global interoperability. 

Laying the foundations 

First published way back in 2004 but only more recently coming to the fore, the ISO 20022 electronic data interchange standard for messaging is the crucial next step to achieving this ambition. ISO 20022 offers a common set of XML-based payments messages, a consistent structure for metadata, and  a dictionary of key business items that may be used to enhance messages. 
Previously different payments systems and institutions defined their own technical standards, making it more complex and costly for all participants to interact with international payments. ISO 20022 seeks to improve interoperability and flexibility across the payments landscape, creating new opportunities for integration between disparate payment systems and increased automation based on payments data, and offering enhanced data to corporate clients to improve their own business processes. Collaboration and coordination across the industry will be essential to ensure banks and financial institutions can reap the full rewards of the new standard.

Numerous ISO 20022 compliance milestones are upcoming, most notably SWIFT and ECB migration dates now set for March 20, 2023, with the Bank of England following a month later. SWIFT has made clear this new date (pushed back from November 2022) “will be definitive”, so the pressure is now well and truly for institutions to ensure they are ready. Institutions “that would like to realise the benefits of rich data sooner can continue to exchange ISO 20022 messages on an opt-in basis,” SWIFT also noted.

Data commercialisation

Once ISO 20022 is fully implemented, attention will inevitably turn towards how the structured data now available can be best utilised and commercialised. However, that question is best engaged with now, rather than waiting until a large proportion of your ISO 20022 solution design has been completed. Instead, a customer and market-informed commercialisation strategy should be an immediate priority to  ensure that your chosen solution is not a blocker to realising the commercial benefits of the standard.

So what is the commercialisation opportunity? We categorise the potential benefits as internal and external, but they could also be thought of in terms of cost savings or revenue generation. On internal cost savings, payments processing continues to be a highly manual exercise with six percent of SWIFT payments failing due to manual data entry error. Enhanced data in the ISO 20022 standard should allow for better automation of internal payments processing systems, provided that data is made available internally. Additionally, new services like SWIFT Payment Pre-validation will hopefully reduce the time and effort to correct any errors that do still occur. 

Certainly, 20022 enhanced payments data could be transformative for clients’ finance and operations teams that manage cross-border shipments, payments reconciliation, and other labour-intensive processes. By integrating directly into their clients’ existing ERP, order management and finance systems, payments providers would be able to provide business data, such as shipment numbers, with each payment that would allow for simplification and automation of payments reconciliation – highly manual task today due to the lack of structured data contained within existing payments messages. 

Reconciliation is one example, but there are many areas of client’s businesses that could be improved with better payments metadata, giving institutions an opportunity to compete based on the data they offer, and potentially commercialise that data offering and create a new source of revenue. Regardless of the use case, working closely with customers and business platform providers (e.g. ERP systems) to identify and develop solutions will be the key to success in a post-ISO20022 world. 

Global interoperability

Ultimately, ISO20022 implementation and commercialisation are steps to broader interoperability between global payment systems, which aims to create a world of instant cross-border payments settlement.  This is a big topic, including central bank digital currencies, private tokens and networks and even how currencies and money itself may evolve, and we have accordingly covered this as its own theme in this series.


The industry should not consider ISO 20022 migration merely as a compulsory, one-off requirement but rather as a critical phase within a multi-year strategy. The fundamentals of how payments – and money itself – operates is changing. In order to succeed and create downstream value for their business and customers, it is important that institutions act now to put in place a multi-year strategy, with a focus on internal and external commercialisation.  

Whether building standalone digital banks, modernizing core banking operations or navigating evolving regulatory landscape, Capco helps clients to harness innovative technology and business models to achieve operational excellence, and transform customer experiences that provide a competitive edge in today’s markets. Capco can help you to successfully implement ISO transition programmes at each stage of the process.