What is ISO® 20022 and why does it matter?

Standards are so integrated into our world it’s easy to forget they exist. Yet it’s standards that allow you to call or text anyone even if they have a different type of phone or carrier than you, or withdraw cash from an ATM machine not owned by the financial institution that issued your card. In the financial industry, messaging standards are what make it possible for systems and networks around the world to communicate with each other.

An information graphic that describes what an ISO 20022 message looks like. Clicking on the image will open a PDF.
Click on the image to download an example of what's in an ISO 20022 message

The financial services industry’s need for a common “language” is what led the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization to launch its ISO 20022 (pronounced EYE-SO-TWENTY-OH-TWENTY-TWO) messaging standard in 2004. Within this industry, the ISO 20022 messaging standard is used for business areas such as:

  • Payments
  • Securities
  • Trade services
  • Cards
  • Foreign exchange

Financial services organizations in more than 70 countries currently use the ISO 20022 standard including The Clearing House’s RTP® 1 network, which has used the standard since the payment platform launched in 2017. Additionally, the Federal Reserve’s Fedwire® Funds Service and The Clearing House Interbank Payments System (CHIPS®) are planning to roll out the ISO 20022 standard across their systems.

The benefits of ISO 20022

ISO 20022 messages are vital to instant payments and play an important role in the overall modernization of payment processes. Specifically, they provide a structured and data-rich common language that is readily exchanged among corporates and banking systems. This capability is foundational for innovations like moving from end-of-day batch file processing to real-time payment processing. Additionally, ISO 20022 messages provide the opportunity for enhanced analytics which can lead to offering valuable new levels of payment services to financial institutions’ customers.

For corporates and financial institutions alike, broad adoption of the ISO format will lead to operational efficiencies, including the ability to exchange detailed remittance information along with a customer payment; support for straight-through processing; and a reduction in errors and the need for manual processing steps.

Get ready for ISO 20022 and the FedNowSM Service

Broad industry adoption of the ISO 20022 messaging standard and the benefits of its highly structured data made it the logical choice for the FedNow Service, the Federal Reserve’s upcoming instant payments infrastructure. And because ISO designed the standard to meet the needs of future innovation, it will be able to support the FedNow Service as it evolves and adds capabilities.

To help the payments industry prepare for the FedNow Service’s 2023 launch, we recently published the ISO 20022 messaging specifications that define the message flows and formats the FedNow Service will use. At launch, the FedNow Service will use a variety of ISO message types including for customer credit transfers, requests for payment and interbank liquidity transfers, as well as FedNow system and account reporting messages. We plan to roll out an educational program, including roundtable discussions, on ISO 20022. Stay tuned for details.

Accessing the FedNow ISO 20022 message specifications

Whether you are responsible for your organization’s FedNow Service integration, preparing to build instant payment products leveraging the FedNow Service, or are a payments processor that will help your clients connect to the FedNow platform, now is the time to familiarize yourself with the FedNow ISO 20022 message specifications.

The Federal Reserve is using the MyStandards® 2 platform to provide access to the FedNow ISO 20022 message specifications and accompanying implementation guide. You can access these on the Federal Reserve Financial Services portal (Off-site) under the FedNow Service. Users will need a MyStandards account, which you can create on the SWIFT website (Off-site). View our step-by-step guide for tips on accessing the specifications.

Learn more

For more information about ISO 20022 and what it may mean for you, read this article (Off-site) from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Stay in the know

Learn more about instant payments and the FedNow Service, and sign up to receive regular emails with FedNow news and resources.

Footnotes

1"RTP" is a registered service marks of The Clearing House Payments Company LLC.

2“MyStandards” is a registered trademark of SWIFT.

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