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EBAday 2020: Lack of technical understanding a challenge for ISO 20022 adoption

EBAday 2020: Lack of technical understanding a challenge for ISO 20022 adoption

Despite being waist-deep in its transition toward ISO 20022, the migration strategies held by financial institutions and schemes are still riddled with complexities.

During the virtual panel ‘A guide to ISO 20022’ on day two of EBAday 2020, moderator Sulabh Agarwal, managing director, global payments lead at Accenture canvassed the well-documented challenges of shifting implementation timelines and cost before pushing panellists to delve a little deeper.

Volker Heinze, head of business development, Unifits, outlines that while the migration obviously demands an immense amount of work, given his unique position as a software provider he has observed another element at play which is compromising the success of transition quite significantly.

“We call this a ‘soft’ complexity. As software providers, we see many projects where our contact people at financial institutions do not have a deep understanding about the existing world of Swift MT messages.”

He furthers that nearly all existing application and processes surrounding high value and cross border payments were stable and working well for decades and unfortunately, those who used to monitor and oversee these MT based processes are no longer employed or available to share their knowledge within the financial institution.

“This means that newcomers need to learn the existing technicalities of the MT world in addition to analysing the future world of ISO 20022 and the implications it brings. This clear lack of knowledge increases the complexity of the project because the team simply cannot discuss the issues on the same level of understanding. This is a risk which must be mitigated by training or bringing in separate expert eyes.”

Daniel Schwefer, director, product management, ISO 20022 programme lead at Deutsche Bank notes that from the perspective of a global bank, overcoming significant obstacles requires the involvement of stakeholders across the world.

“We’ve had to learn over the last few years that ISO migration goes beyond a pure clearing aspect of payments and the involvement of stakeholders across the entire value chain of the payment is essential. Perhaps even more importantly, it goes beyond technology. The ISO 20022 migration project impacts our operations, treasury, sales divisions and how we position our products.”

“It is an opportunity for us to fix things we’ve done wrong or took shortcuts with in the past. It’s an opportunity as much as it is a challenge.”

Adding to the comment on the opportunities ISO 20022 presents, Andrew McFarlane, executive director, modernisation, Payments Canada says that the consistency and shared experience that ISO can deliver are the key motivators for adoption.

Further, “from our perspective we’re obviously critically keen on the safety and soundness of the Canadian ecosystem. Anything that brings more data and the opportunity for more confidence and integrity of that data is critical from a safety point of view.”

“The ability to mine this data will be a huge benefit going forward…but the predominant benefit for the Canadian ecosystem given the scale of small businesses will be the reconciliation effort alongside the ability to have straight through processing, efficiency for the message remittance payload and save time for these small businesses.”

Stephen Lindsay, head of standards, Swift echoes the point raised on consistency, stating that “the term fragmentation is the enemy of all.”

Lindsay explains that Swift works closely with the industry - both market infrastructures and correspondent banks - to try and achieve harmonisation and is dedicated to ensuring that consistency around high value or instant payments can be implemented.

“We also want to maintain this in the cross-border leg as well to ensure all the data can flow through without truncation or loss in precision of data. This doesn’t come for free, nor does it come from everyone agreeing to adopt ISO 20022. To achieve this it requires constant, continued, concerted efforts to collaborate and harmonise.”

“Sometimes it’s necessary to put the benefits of individual markets or institutions to one side for the benefit of the greater good.”

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