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Swift delays ISO 20022 cross-border payments migration

Swift is to delay the original ISO 20022 migration date for cross border payments by 12 months, from November 2021 to the end of 2022, as banks struggle with decommissioning and preparing existing infrastructure for the transition.

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Swift delays ISO 20022 cross-border payments migration


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The data-rich language and payments structure is expected to see widespread adoption, with ISO 20022 anticipated to revolutionise not only cross-border payments, but the entire payments landscape.

The decision to delay was made following feedback from the Swift community about the impending deadline. While institutions have an extra year of system co-existence initially, the ultimate deadline for decommissiong the legacy Swift MT standard remains in place as 2025.

Although Swift’s statement does not explicitly state whether auxilliary initiatives will also be delayed, the firm says it will "deliver on its on-going commitments to community and regulatory initiatives including SWIFT gpi, market infrastructure projects such as the Eurosystem Single Market Infrastructure Gateway (ESMIG) and Shareholders Rights Directive (SRD II)."

Challenges with risk, complexity, scale and deployment alongside equally gargantuan projects have been cited as significant concerns by the financial institutions required to make changes to their infrastructure and systems.

Paula Roels, head of market infrastructure & industry initiatives, at Deutsche Bank told Finextra Research: “Considering the complexity and the short migration deadlines, there will need to be compromises in terms of migration.”

"For instance, we are seeing banks ‘de-scope’ their range of services to successfully take their first steps toward ISO adoption with the intention of reaping the full benefits of the new system at a later stage."

While larger firms may have been adequately equipped to plan and implement the migration, smaller firms will likely struggle to meet the technical challenges the transition demands, such as migration mapping, changing legacy systems, and the changing architecture of banks and corporates.

Earlier this year, Petia Niederländer, head of retail and corporate operations at Erste Group Bank, explained to Finextra Research the challenge the migration presents for smaller firms operating in the space. “European banks are working very hard to meet the 2021 deadline [however] I think the deadline is quite challenging, especially for the smaller banks.”

Commenting to Finextra, Swift says the decision to delay was made so that "financial institutions can maintain existing standards or migrate, and plan change at their own pace in line with their own innovation priorities.

"To achieve better international payments will require a next generation of Swift services that enable faster, transparent, rich, compliant, frictionless and coordinated transactions. Swift is working with its community to enable this move in an efficient way, while supporting the adoption of ISO 20022 by major reserve currencies.

"The new approach will avoid short-lived investments by customers and offer new capabilities. ISO 20022 remains a key community objective and a cornerstone of the new approach."

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