The Swiss ISO-20022 Payments Harmonization

The Swiss ISO-20022 Payments Harmonization

  In 2008 only a few people knew what ISO-20022 is. Some payment specialists worked on the idea to create a new standard to harmonize all the different payment schemes not only in Switzerland but also worldwide. After recognizing the big opportunities that ISO-20022 gives on one hand and on the other hand predicting the future seeing that the actual formats would have limitations in future compliance rules, on September 2009 the Board of Directors of SIC Ltd. (SIX Interbank Clearing) decided to issue the assignment to elaborate a concept for a completely new RTGS system architecture. The result called SIC4 came live nearly 7 years and 42 Million Swissies later officially on 14th April 2016. An absolutely new system with a modular architecture where, amongst other things, the proprietary SIC interbank messages have been replaced by ISO-20022 “pacs” messages. Now it’s a crucial time for the banks. On one hand after becoming ISO-20022 pacs messages ready (hopefully in time) they must connect to this new SIC4 clearing system. And on the other hand, they got their clients. And these clients must be informed and helped on this harmonization phase. And this help is needed. Because there are a lot of parallel changes going on. The new payments (pain) and account statement (camt) message formats harmonization (which harmonize with SEPA). Then a consolidation of methods, formats and channels in debit direct and e-billing (project name: LEON). Last year came up the whole mobile payments story. Switzerland got actually a SIX System called Paymit and a PostFinance System called Twint and others like etc. Then this year began the discussions about the so-called “Express Payments”. An approximation to the upcoming instant payments in the UE. And because this is not enough, some banks want to introduce simultaneously also a new transfer protocol. EBICS which got two characteristics (the german and the french one) and a Swiss specification which actually nobody is using. All these changes mentioned above the clients and their software vendors like ERP-, accounting-, treasury-, payments- etc producer must previously analyze, introduce and manage together with all their clients. The migration of bigger companies is a big challenge. Here are only a few of them: -Different stages in the migration. Means that one bank may accept the new formats and the other one only in a half year. -Although a harmonization was seeked banks may got slightly different messages because they got different service the so-called AOS- Additional Optional Services. -Different roadmaps: one for payments and account statements, one for project LEON, later migration of the Swiss Inpayment slip (most used payment method by private people). No roadmap for the client-to-bank communication EBICS protocol. -And so on and so on. It is not my aim to criticize the banks on this blog because most of them are doing a very good job. They got dedicated “payment migration” people (technical and relationship) which are in contact on different levels with the clients. Some of the banks built up dedicated testing platforms which normally are available 24/7 and absolutely cost-free. Other are doing marketing campaigns informing the SME and Corporate about the changes. On this matter, the Swiss banks learned a lot from the SEPA introduction and are very scared to not do the same errors. The only thing which can be made better is to have all these different information available on one central information platform and a better management and coordination in between the banks and the software producer. The programmer would have an easier access to the bank specific guidelines and the project managers could be better in touch with the banks knowing all these names and bank specific roadmaps. Let’s see if the Swiss Payments Harmonization is done until the middle of 2018. Actually, the lamps are green and in some institution in orange. No bank or company is in a red mode, which is good.  

About the Author

oscar neira

Oscar Neira is a banking consultant. He writes mainly in German but also in Spanish about payments, Fintech and banking digitization topics. As a correspondent for he is deeply involved in the Swiss Payment Harmonization project.



Meet ISO-20022

  iso200022_Normal_Bindestrich-03 is a deeply specialized platform which wants to give payments knowledge to the banking and user community. Topics regarding the big payment standards harmonization in Switzerland are the focus of the platform. The page is visited by bank, software producer and corporate employees who are involved in the payments and treasury area of IT and business or consultancy. Especially the dictionary (, a knowledge database, is the most visited part of the page.