ISO 20022 gathers pace as global standard

SEB has been a leading player in ISO 20022 Financial Services Standard implementations for its customers for a number of years, a position that was reflected in the appointment of Harri Rantanen as the ISO 20022 Payments Standard Evaluation Group convener in March 2016.

This group is the key standardisation body for the payments domain and responsible for
more than 150 messages in ISO20022, involving 70 members from more than 20 countries.

It brings together the leading experts from countries and interest groups around the world and as Harri Rantanen explains, is now a truly global standard offering many exciting future
development opportunities.

"Our members are payments messaging experts from around the world and we have members from China, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Singapore, Italy, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and the USA. We also have representatives from the ECB, Euroclear, IFX and SWIFT, so you can see that this is a totally global group with a very broad interest," he says.

Harri has been involved with ISO 20022 since its inception in 2004 and was quick to see the potential in many countries being able to work to the same clear standard. "12 years does sound like a long time, but it's actually very short in terms of financial institutions, especially given the complexity of the issues we are dealing with and the sheer number of stakeholders involved. I believe we've achieved a great deal in this time," he explains.

Looking back 12 years, the landscape was very different to that of today. There was a hugely fragmented approach with country - specific formats applied to the communication between corporates and banks when dealing with payments initiations and reporting. This meant different formats, different payment types for different countries and different banks. Fast forward a decade, and the new standard has replaced – or is currently replacing – all local formats globally.

It has been possible to replace the country specific and bank specific procedures and formats with standard harmonised processing when it comes to payment initiations and reporting and reconciliation of transactions. ISO 20022 - compliant SEPA in
Europe has been adopted by practically every European coun try. But the thing that excites
Harri is that there are implementations across all the continents, including Asia, Africa and
North and South America. The advantages are significant, especially for companies that are instigating Shared Service Centre implementations because they can approach this in a more practical, efficient and certain way.

As a leading player in ISO 20022, Harri believes that SEB offers a real competitive edge for its clients. "We have a proven track record in this area and I believe we are very competitive. I'm very keen to communicate the benefits of this standard to clients, but also to make them aware of the multiple additional services that they can take advantage of'" he says.

"We now have a solid platform on which to build. As well as offering a much faster and more reliable service, we're also able to deliver implementations and applications
more easily. They are easier to integrate and easier for the end users. We are providing better integration capability and inter-operability for different services from different service providers in the payments domain. And this all adds up to a much better client experience, which is the key point," he stresses.

It goes without saying that a project of this scope and ambition has not been without its
challenges – and Harri was keen to emphasise the importance of governance in this process. "It has been beneficial to be involved with the body responsible for the ne
w standard," he says. "We've always been acutely aware that when there are many stakeholders and countries involved, the importance of safeguarding the standard and ensuring we don't allow any country - specific or exceptional processes through is paramount. Collaboration and cooperation is at the heart of what we do and we ensure that we don't allow anything which would harm the standard."

Although Harri smilingly refers to himself and his colleagues as 'Standards geeks', he never loses sight of the purpose of ISO 20022. "Although I'm well versed about IT, I'm first and foremost a business person and I'm excited about the many opportunities available to our customers," he concludes.