SWIFT has achieved UNIFI (ISO 20022) compliance for its customer-to-bank payment initiation messages.
This is the first set of messages to meet the evaluation and approval requirements of the ISO UNIFI registration infrastructure since its establishment earlier this year.
The approved messages, which include the "core payment kernel" developed and delivered by the International Standards Team (IST) for Harmonization, will further boost already-broad industry acceptance as a result of obtaining the official UNIFI (ISO 20022) label. This is seen as particularly important to discourage the increase of divergent standards in the customer-to-bank space. Moreover, this is a significant step towards the use of open standards.
Implementation in the market
Market players are already recognising the benefit of a single, ISO-compliant standard to facilitate efficient communication between customers and their banks. One of the banks already using the core payment kernel with its customers is Nordea. "The birth of the first UNIFI standard is worth a celebration. This has been accomplished with a lot of effort from all of us who believe strongly in global standardisation. The driving force for Nordea moving into production was an authentic corporate request, which is exactly what we in the bank want," comments Olli Kähkönen, Manager, eBusiness.
Raffi Basmadjian, Deputy Treasurer at France Telecom Group Treasury points to the arrival of SEPA (Single European Payments Area) as a motivation for the take-up of truly international standards. "It is in the interests of all European companies, and those who have business in Europe, to move to more flexible standards. The fact that SWIFT is seen as the consensus-achiever for the financial industry will mean that these standards have the best chance of being accepted by the banks. In addition, these standards will be broadly accepted outside Europe. This makes the change even more attractive."
He also cites the potential richness offered by standards expressed in XML as a driver. This echoes the sentiment of Léo Apotheker, President, Customer Solutions and Operations, Member of the Executive Board, SAP AG during his Sibos speech on the reach achievable with XML-based standards. "We are using a common standard, XML, to implement the "SWIFT Inside" ERP which will allow our 30,000 customers and SWIFT's 8,000 affiliated banks to do true STP."
Facilitating straight through processing
The UNIFI-compliant payment initiation messages are the first in a portfolio of payment messages that SWIFT will submit to ISO to cover the complete end-to-end payment transaction chain. These will include messages for direct debits and cash management functionalities. ISO labelling guarantees that the same set of data is reused throughout end-to-end transaction processing and so is included in every stage of a payment's lifecycle.
About the standard
The UNIFI-compliant standards are publicly available on iso20022.org. The publication includes the XML schema of each message, a Message Definition Report (a pdf document fully describing the four messages) and XML examples for each message. The message components are registered in the UNIFI Data Dictionary, also available through the website, for reuse in future standards development.