In brief

In brief

  • After years of gradual development and delays, the adoption of ISO 20022 is rapidly approaching a tipping point.
  • Many market infrastructures, including SWIFT, have launched multi-year migration plans.
  • Financial institutions need to find a balance between complying minimally with defined deadlines and building towards a future-proof state.
  • European banks should include four key elements in their migration plans.


A key moment for financial services

The global adoption of ISO 20022 is the most far-reaching and widely underestimated development in payments today. For financial institutions in Europe it is nothing less than an earthquake—one that will present challenges for the entire industry, and opportunities for those that manage their migration to the new standard correctly.

It’s not shocking that the transition hasn’t attracted the attention it merits. ISO 20022 is complicated and can seem downright confusing even to payments specialists. The new standard has also been a long time coming. Some financial institutions began their migration over a decade ago.

But the impact of ISO 20022 is rapidly approaching a tipping point. All European banks now face firm compliance deadlines for the standard, lending new urgency to migration plans. Most financial institutions will need to strike a delicate balance between minimal compliance with defined deadlines and building towards a future-proof target state.

Advantages of adopting ISO 20022

Migration is likely to be complex, expensive and prolonged. But once the standard has been adopted, ISO 20022 could unlock some exciting benefits for banks. These include:

Lower operating costs

Adopting the new standard will boost the efficiency of internal business processes.

Improved fraud management

ISO 20022 can be leveraged to boost both fraud detection and prevention.

Refined payments insight

Value-added services can be built based on greater insight into the business purpose of customer payments.

Universal interoperability

ISO 20022 can unlock interoperability across all actors in the global payments ecosystem.

More automation

Acting as a pillar for automation infrastructure, ISO 20022 can reduce friction for automation, including straight-through processing.

Richer data

The new standard will enrich all streams of payments data, including remittance data, through enhanced structure and granularity.

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Planning your ISO 20022 migration

A new paper from Accenture lays out the biggest hurdles banks must clear on the journey to ISO 20022—and four key elements for planning your migration.

1. Conduct business-driven gap analysis

The migration is a journey into the unknown for the entire industry. Banks will need to budget accordingly and avoid misalignment of workstreams. Streamline processes and value chains with a center of knowledge. Conduct a thorough impact assessment. Reach out to clients and consider their migrations too.

2. Find a rational balance in implementing multiple critical projects

The complexity and expense of migration are both daunting, but minimal compliance will likely mean missed opportunities. It is critical that banks focus on future-proof strategies rather than the immediate business case. Elaborate the best migration approach for parallel programs, and consider the potential synergy of aligning several migration programs (e.g. SWIFT and T2) where applicable.

3. Upgrade aging legacy systems

Many legacy systems can neither support nor leverage the new standard. Assess infrastructure to determine which systems need to be decommissioned and which should be shielded with accelerators and other tools. Review systems for their ability to process larger data volumes, intraday liquidity management, compliance checks, and fraud prevention and detection. ISO 20022 should be a driver for replacing and dismantling outdated systems.

4. Apply strategic guidelines for planning

ISO 20022 is a generational challenge in project management, but many banks still have no clear roadmap for its implementation. Manage the risk with master project planning, an emphasis on testing and quality assurance, and the involvement of key stakeholders, including clients and external partners.

We’d love to answer any questions you have about ISO 20022 migration or hear feedback on our report, “Europe’s Journey to ISO 20022.” If you’d like to talk about your migration plan, please get in touch.

"It is nothing less than an earthquake—one that will present challenges for the entire industry, and opportunities for those who manage their migration to the new standard correctly."

– BRITTA KOTTHAUS-KRAHMER, Director – Technology Consulting, Financial Services

Sulabh Agarwal

Managing Director – Global Payments Lead


Britta Kotthaus-Krahmer

Director – Technology Consulting, Financial Services


Christian Klammer​

Senior Manager – Strategy & Consulting​

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