ISO20022 adoption to drive $4.5 billion in savings for Canadian business - CPA

ISO20022 adoption to drive $4.5 billion in savings for Canadian business - CPA

The Canadian Payments Association estimates that the cost benefits to businesses of a move to the ISO20022 standard could be as high as $4.5 billion over five years simply from the elimination of cheques

The CPA has launched a multi-year initiative to modernise Canada’s core payments infrastructure, which will ultimately use the internationally recognised payment messaging standard.

In a discussion paper outlining the financial benefits of a move to ISO20022, the CPA says that adoption of the standard will expedite cheque elimination in favour of lower cost electronic payments.

In 2014, nearly one billion cheques were written in Canada. Many businesses still use cheques because of the information that can accompany a payment, such as invoicing statements. The ISO 20022 standard, once implemented, will allow significantly more information to travel with electronic payments, says the Association, enabling greater automation and improved efficiency for businesses and financial institutions alike.

The biggest beneficiaries will be Canadian businesses, who currently bear the brunt of the costs associated with cheque processing and reconciliation.

“Modernisation of the Canadian payment system will require material investment by financial institutions and businesses,” says Carol Ann Northcott, vice president responsible for research at CPA. “Therefore, it is critical we understand the prospective benefits for all users of the Canadian payment system.”

Aside from the shift away from cheques, other financial benefits are harder to quantify, she says. Much of the upside potential comes in the creation of a single payments language that can be a spur to innovation in the mobile arena, and introduce efficiencies in cross-border payments processing as other market infrastructures adopt the standard.

“Establishing a shared vision for the Canadian payments ecosystem in the future and understanding the efforts required to realise this vision requires the collaboration and participation of all payment system users," says CPA chief Gerry Gaetz. "That’s why we are actively engaging our member financial institutions and stakeholders. We are committed to support this industry-wide discussion with sound research."

Read the full paper:

Download the document now 1.6 mb (PDF File)

Comments: (5)

Graham Seel
Graham Seel - BankTech Consulting - Concord 19 November, 2015, 20:53Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

ISO 20022 adoption will be a very good thing of course. But it is perhaps a little naive to think that it will lead to the elimination of cheques. Businesses write cheques for all sorts of reasons, including habit. There is certainly a huge issue with the tiny amount of supporting information supported in the Canadian ACH system, but in the US this limitation was lifted years ago without massive reduction in check-writing. The direction is right, but the estimated benefits are perhaps over-stated.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 20 November, 2015, 00:25Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Graham, many thanks for your comment on the paper. Just to be clear, the analysis does not contemplate complete cheque elimination in Canada following ISO implementation. Rather,  under the most aggressive cheque mitigation scenario contemplated in the paper, there are actually still nearly half the cheques there are now in Canada still being written annually by the end of the projection period __ about 400 million cheques still written annually in 2020.  I'd appreciate any views you have on that number or any of the other assumptions being made in the paper.

Best. Neville

Graham Seel
Graham Seel - BankTech Consulting - Concord 20 November, 2015, 00:46Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thanks Neville - my bad for not having read the report :-( 

Cheque elimination is quite a challenge in the US, Canada, the UK (remember when the Payments Council prematurely announced the death of the cheque?), and a handful of others. Some countries with much more of an electronic payments culture (e.g. Scandinavian and Germanic countires) are very close. A huge challenge, especially for the UK and Canada, is the cost of image conversion - essential to do because the fixed-cost nature ot paper infrastructure is becoming ridiculously expensive as cheque volumes decrease, but ultimately fixed costs will again drive transaction costs through the roof. 

I think everyone expected US check volumes to decrease at much more than the 4% per year or so experienced so far. Small businesses are the primary culprit - even though viable electronic payment capabilities exist, for B2B purposes they are far less accessible, have significant start-up costs, and still aren't as convenient as wholesale or retail lockbox operations, etc. I would suggest that more work needs to be done on the true root drivers of continued cheque usage, and very focused solutioning around alternatives that are inexpensive, convenient and culturally accessible to small to medium sized businesses.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 20 November, 2015, 01:03Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

This is great perspective and insight, Graham, and I think you hit on some critical next steps for this research stream. The timing for this is ideal as the Canadian payments ecosystem undergoes broad modernization. I look forward to your thoughts on our future work as well. Thanks again.



Bo Harald
Bo Harald - Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program,MyData - Helsinki Region 07 December, 2015, 17:29Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

ISO20022 is a growing family - ready for account statements, SEPA-payments, inquiries, payment references, e-invoicing - and very soon for VAT and sales tax reporting (to mention a few).

Without standards - not enough competition - without competition - not enough progress...