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What next for ISO 20022?

With the blink of an eye another Sibos came and went.  The containers have been shipped out and it’s back to the old grind.  Real projects.  Deadlines.  Pesky users.  Endless meetings.  Production problems.  Planning for 2015.  Budgets.  Year-end reviews.  Bonuses.  Holiday parties.  Yay!

Participants of the Standards Forum left Boston with a real sense of pride and achievement for the recent past, a renewed sense of purpose for the here and now, and bags of optimism for the future. Over the past few years we have mobilized this thing called ISO 20022 and sent it into battle.  It’s a battle we are winning.  

There were a couple of mentions of the "tipping point" throughout the week.  I wrote about this some time ago.  That there were so few mentions though is perhaps an indication that we are now well beyond the tipping point, and the conversation has shifted on to more important things.  So what next?

ISO 20022 is now clearly the default standard of choice for any new initiative in the financial services space.  There is plenty of evidence to support this.  I expect this to continue and this is "what-next" #1.  A big push to get all the in-flight initiatives over-the-line.  Focus people!

Lot’s of talk as always about regulation.  ISO 20022 is well placed to support some aspects of legislation currently on the dock; but not all.  Comprehensive support for derivative instruments remains a gap in the standard.  FpML, of course, is the de-facto syntax in this space.  Surely it is not beyond our collective wit to combine the FpML syntax with the ISO 20022 data model.  What-next #2. 

What else?  Perhaps it is finally time to get serious about introducing the MXs on the SWIFT network as a replacement for the MTs.  I wish we had done it years ago.  I’m still not convinced the broader community is ready to make this leap yet.  This view can be confirmed simply by looking at how many changes to the MTs have been requested for the November 2015 Standards Release.   This is what-next #3, but I’m not so optimistic on this one I’m afraid. 

And here’s another reason why.  There was some talk at Sibos about concerns of fragmentation of standards.  This is so incredibly ironic.  The flexibility of ISO 20022, and of XML in general, should be lauded, and it should be considered as a driver for adoption.  Instead, the nay-sayers have somehow managed to twist it around as use it as a barrier against adoption.  It’s a herring-rouge. Don’t let them fool you.

The reality is that if (er… when, surely!) SWIFT implements 20022 on their network there will just as much rigor and discipline as we have been conditioned to expect with the MTs.  If you choose to take your traffic elsewhere then all bets are off, no matter what syntax you are using.  It’s that simple.  Am I missing something here? 

Why some people go out of their way to look for excuses not to move forward is a mystery to me. 

The ISO 20022 repository and data model is now out there in the public domain.  Vendors are beginning to build support for the model into their products.  Banks and other financial institutions are looking to leverage 20022 as a basis for their internal data models.  This is what-next #4.  A year from now, just about everyone will be doing this, or at least thinking about it. 

The final what-next is around technical innovation.  There are some very smart people working quietly behind the scenes to improve the standard.  There are a number of skunks in the works, and I’ll be writing about some of these in the near future.  What-next #5 is that the standard will continue to innovate, to leverage the latest thinking and technologies du-jour.

I’ll close this one out with a final thought.  Remember that when it comes time to implement 20022 in your shop, that it’s not rocket science.  It’s just XML and nothing to be afraid of.  Point your dev team at the schemas and you’ll be off to the races in no time.

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Steve Goswell
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Steve Goswell

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Standards Forum

The Standards Forum is the place where business and standardisation meet. This group would like to facilitate and encourage dialogue around standardisation in the financial industry, and share views, insights and updates on how financial standards can contribute to reducing cost and increasing efficiency when tackling today's challenges such as automation, compliance, and regulation.


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