ISO20022 - A new messaging standard for UK payments

  • Apostolos Savvas
  • 12 May 2022
  • Blog | Fintech and Innovation in Banking | Professionalism and Ethics | Blog

People worldwide buy products and services and pay using various methods, with electronic payments owning their own strong position the last decade. Payments are flowing between different banks and financial organisations but also merchants and payment processor companies which makes the payments journey more complex.

What is the standard?

Payments data in the UK is changing. The UK payments industry is already moving to ISO 20022, the emerging global standard for payments messaging. This standard creates a common language for payments data across the world, so all financial institutions can exchange payment data without requiring extensive translation mechanisms.

ISO 20022 represents a global and open single standardisation approach to facilitate electronic data interchange between financial institutions and it has been developed within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee 68 (TC68) Financial Services. The primary focus for ISO 20022 is to define financial data, standardise and group them into transactions. As a result, financial institutions will be able to use these consolidated transactions to enhance various processes by sharing the payment information. The ultimate power of the new standard is the reusability of the data in complex concepts.

Fast Facts

The ISO20022 Fast Facts, according to JP Morgan;

  • ISO 20022 is a standard for exchanging electronic messages.
  • uses XML syntax and offers structured, rich data;
  • this format is already used by many real-time, low-value, and high-value clearing systems around the world;
  • offers richer references and improved remittance information;
  • requires planning ahead: a multi-year project for financial institutions to implement value-added services to enhance the user experience


The migration to ISO 20022 standard, as per the Bank of England’s (BoE) 1. transition plan, also includes the well-known Sterling high value payment system called CHAPS, which will migrate in April 2023. The published BoE timelines includes the Transition State 2 preparation: Pilot Platform expected in Summer 2022, followed by the Transition State 2.1: CHAPS enhanced ISO 20022 messaging in April 2023, with the Transition State 3: New settlement engine taking place in Spring 2024 and thereafter the Transition State 4 - the roadmap to 2024 and beyond.


In terms of its benefits, the overall economy will be able to use the better payment data in such ways to improve payments and their data exchanges over existing and future technologies. Benefits include but are not limited to:

  • flexibility by its easier adaptation than the current payment frameworks and by it being more responsive to modern technologies;
  • greater harmonisation can be achieved by extending its use in over 70 countries worldwide;
  • enrich data by adding extra payment data;
  • compliance and regulation could become stronger as richer data can detect fraud faster;
  • resilience will improve by using the standard across many different payment systems and minimising outages for uses;
  • increased competition and innovation could result in more competitive payments products across the industries;
  • straight-through processing by avoiding manual interventions from financial institutions; and finally
  • better analytics, which will benefit faster and improved decision-making processes.

Looking ahead

ISO migration is more than just a technical project. It is unlocking the potential for financial institutions to shift from passive to active payments processing. That makes it equivalent to compliance frameworks in other industries, not just those across the banking sector. For Institute members working in payments the impact of ISO 20020 will soon become clear if its potential impact is not already recognised. Overall, financial institutions and their customers are set to benefit thanks to the advanced reconciliation and treasury opportunities the new standard makes possible as the ISO20022 will enhance existing Know-Your-Customer (KYC) processes. And for those of you yet to be convinced of the changes that the ISO migration will bring, I would recommend watching the brief video (see reference 5 below).

About the Author

Apostolos Savvas is a Member of the Chartered Banker Institute and an experienced Senior Delivery Manager and Agile Ambassador within the banking industry. He is passionate about sharing his knowledge for payments, cryptoassets and financial fraud with others, and is actively interested in academic research relating to Project Management, Agile, Payments, Crypto and Banking.



  1. JP Morgan report (2020), ISO 20022 Migration: Delivering Faster Payments Automation:
  2. Bank of England update (2022), A new messaging standard for UK payments: ISO 20022:
  3. Swift Standards, What is ISO 20022? And why you should adopt it now for cross-border payments:
  4. Pay UK, What is ISO 20022?:
  5. SWIFT video (2020), Payments are entering a new era with ISO 20022: