August 31, 2023
5 min

What Is ISO 20022 and Why Is It Important?


The global payment ecosystem is fragmented and filled with multiple players, creating a need for more standardization. ISO 20022 has emerged as a solution to streamline communication between financial institutions, enabling interoperability. Its enriched data capabilities provide comprehensive transaction details, enhancing straight-through processing and analytics. 

With global adoption by major financial market infrastructures and regulatory mandates, ISO 20022 ensures consistency across jurisdictions. Moreover, adopting this standard formatting by major currencies like EUR, USD, GBP, and CHF reflects a shift towards standardization in global payments, aiming to improve efficiency and align with international best practices; this will ultimately enhance transparency and automation in financial transactions worldwide.

Breaking Down ISO 20022

So what exactly is ISO 20022? ISO 20022 is a global standard for financial messaging and data interchange developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Emerging in the late 1990s as a response to the need for standardization and interoperability in the financial industry, ISO 20022 has transformed the way financial institutions interact. The existing messaging standards at the time it was developed — such as SWIFT’s MT series and the FIX protocol — lacked consistency and limited the exchange of financial information across different systems and organizations.

ISO 20022 overcomes these limitations by providing a comprehensive and flexible messaging framework. It offers a rich set of message types, data elements, and business processes. It utilizes modern technologies that enable easy integration into existing technology infrastructures so that corporations can efficiently make the switch. This has contributed to its widespread adoption by major financial market infrastructures, banks, corporations, and software vendors looking to improve operational efficiency.

Benefits of Adopting ISO 20022

There are several benefits for the financial industry as ISO 20022 gets adopted by more financial infrastructures, especially straight-through processing, due to the common and consistent data model for financial transactions. Other advantages include: 

  • Rich and more granular data. ISO 20022 enables the exchange of detailed and structured financial information. It provides a comprehensive set of message types and data elements, allowing for more precise data representation. This richness and granularity of data enhance the accuracy and completeness of financial transactions, enabling better understanding and interpretation by the receiving parties.
  • Reduced Errors and Improved Reliability. The standard promotes the use of high-quality data in financial messaging. By defining clear and standardized data models, ISO 20022 helps ensure that the information exchanged between parties is accurate, consistent, and complete. This quality data contributes to more reliable and efficient payment processes, reducing errors, exceptions, and payment rejections.
  • Improved analytics. ISO 20022's detailed data elements and structured format empower organizations with improved data analytics and reporting capabilities. This enables a deeper understanding of payment flows, transaction patterns, and customer behaviors. By utilizing ISO 20022, organizations can make informed decisions and engage in strategic planning by leveraging comprehensive insights gained from data analysis.
  • Worldwide adoption. ISO 20022 has achieved significant global adoption across the financial industry. Many major banks and corporations have migrated or are in the process of migrating to the standard. This widespread adoption promotes harmonization, simplifying communication and collaboration between different entities globally, regardless of their geographical location or business domain.
  • Support for end-to-end automation. ISO 20022 plays a crucial role in supporting the end-to-end automation of financial processes. The standard enables seamless integration and straight-through processing across different systems and organizations by providing a standardized messaging framework. This reduces the need for manual intervention, streamlines operations, and increases transaction processing efficiency, ultimately resulting in cost savings and faster turnaround times.
  • Seamless Technology Integration. ISO 20022 adopts contemporary technologies and standards, including XML and web services, for the representation and transmission of data. By utilizing these technologies, ISO 20022 ensures seamless compatibility and integration with existing technology infrastructures, simplifying the adoption and implementation process for organizations. This modern approach facilitates efficient and secure communication between systems.

How Will ISO 20022 Impact the Payments Industry?

The widespread adoption of ISO 20022 in the payments industry is poised to revolutionize operations and interactions, boosting interoperability, seamless connectivity, and collaboration among systems and institutions. Payments Journal reports that while ISO 20022 adoption can be challenging, it will offer “the opportunity for a faster, more frictionless payment experience for all,” with benefits such as “improved reconciliation, enhanced straight-through processing, and reduction of manual exception payment processes.”

ISO 20022 also plays an essential part in the instant payments ecosystem. The newest instant payments rail back by the Federal Government, FedNow, utilizes ISO 20022 standards as it is “an important role in the overall modernization of payment processes.” The recognized benefits of ISO 20022 have the potential to create a better payments landscape through the streamlined and modernized framework for messaging and data standards it provides. 

Stay Ahead with Trustly

ISO 20022 has emerged as a game-changing standard in the financial industry, revolutionizing the way financial messages get exchanged. Its standardized framework and enriched data capabilities promote interoperability, straight-through processing, and improved analytics. As the industry evolves and payment preferences continue to change, it is crucial to have a trusted partner who can navigate these transformations. 

Trustly, a leader in the financial payment space for over a decade, is well-positioned to assist your organization in understanding and adapting to these shifting payment preferences. With expertise and innovative solutions, Trustly is ready to guide individuals and businesses through the changing landscape of payments, ensuring seamless and secure financial transactions in the digital age.

Visit the Trustly Blog to read more about the changing financial payment landscape.

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