While SWIFT has been closely involved in the development of ISO 20022, the official body responsible is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). SWIFT acts as the registration authority and is responsible for maintaining and publishing the central repository of ISO 20022 content.
The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) was one of the first schemes to adopt ISO 20022, but the use of the format has not been limited to Europe. More than 25 market infrastructures across the world will be moving to ISO 20022 by 2025.
ISO 20022 is for financial messaging, but payments is only one of five financial service domains covered by the standard. It also covers securities, trade services, cards and foreign exchange.
The ISO 20022 message can be used in both domestic and cross-border scenarios. ISO 20022 is intended to be a single message standard for all financial communications, irrespective of the counterparty (financial institutions, market infrastructures, corporate customers), the business domain (payments, securities, treasury, trade services), or the network (public or proprietary, domestic or international).
The idea that ISO 20022 is standard across the globe is not quite accurate. Payments are being processed in accordance with a uniform standard, but they can differ from one market infrastructure to another. ISO 20022 only prescribes the format in which information can be exchanged. Market infrastructures in different countries will need different payment information or instructions.
ISO 20022 messages are in general exchanged in XML, but ISO 20022 is not dependent on a specific message syntax. ISO 20022 has been designed to be flexible, so if a different syntax is needed or a new syntax is developed, ISO 20022 can accommodate it.
The ISO 20022 payments message carries much richer information than SWIFT MT messages and other legacy formats. The information in an ISO 20022 message can be grouped together based on common data components from different payments methods and can be further reused, resulting in increased interoperability.
It’s not just about messages – ISO 20022 provides a common language for machines and people to exchange information about financial business. This common language is set out in a formal dictionary.
ISO 20022 transactions provide additional functionalities, follow XML-based approaches, support non-Latin alphabets and offer improved remittance. As a result, the standard gives users the ability to harmonize formats that did not previously allow for cross-operation, improving efficiency while reducing costs and exposure to risk.
Transactions between senders and receivers need to have a common understanding of the information in messages that they exchange. ISO 20022 helps to solve the disparate schemes that exist worldwide through a common global dictionary that everybody can understand. This means that information can be processed and exchanged clearly and consistently worldwide.