Switzerland has started the countdown to a mass-market switch to the ISO 20022 standard for payments harmonisation across all consumer, corporate and bank payments, an initiative billed as the country's biggest financial infrastructure project in 390 years.
The digital payments drive will see Swiss financial institutions complete the changeover to the new standard by the end of 2017 and a corporate switch by mid-2018 at the latest.
The project, which is being overseen by market infrastructure provider SIX, marks a response to an inexorable rise in electronic payments, currently accounting for 74% of all consumer transactions. This change is not reflected in the back office however, where the cycle from billing to payment receipt continues to entail manual intervention by corporate and private customers.
The changeover will also align with a global switch to ISO 20022, raising the prospect of cross-border payments harmonisation based on a proven and future-proof standard.
In Switzerland, the seven different payment slips currently in place will be replaced by a digitally readable QR code containing all the data for the payment. The new process, called QR-bill, is aimed at streamlining the processing of bills and credit transfers for companies and consumers.
Companies can print the QR-bill themselves and the bill recipient can trigger payment with just a few clicks on a smartphone or other electronic device. Incorrect entries of payment information will be displayed directly in ebanking and business software, and can be immediately corrected, saving time and investigation orders.
In the course of the harmonisation, the currently varying direct debit procedures of PostFinance and the other banks will also be aligned, providing for an end-to-end payment process from biller to bill recipient.
Companies and organisations with an operating or an ERP system will be required to adapt their systems to ISO 20022, replace current account codes with standardised Ibans and discuss the process and timing with their respective financial institution and software suppliers.
SIX Group says the timetable for introducing the QR-bill will be communicated, together with the technical specifications, by PaymentStandards.CH on 27 April 2017.