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The Bank for International Settlements has opened a consultation on proposals to harmonise the use of the ISO 20022 financial messaging standard in cross-border payments transfers.


ISO 20022 provides a common language for payments that allows for richer and more structured data to be shared via standardised messages.

At present, the fragmentation and mixed use of payment messaging standards is a major friction in cross-border payments. The ISO 20022 format is being introduced to adress these inefficencies, although its viability as a solution may be undermined by different interpretation of the specification in individual markets.

A joint task force, comprising technical experts from the CPMI and the Payments Market Practice Group, has developed a set of recommendations for a harmonised adoption and use of ISO 20022 as applied to cross border payments.

Because many jurisdictions are currently in the midst of implementing ISO 20022, the work has focused on the future state after the end of the coexistence period between the Swift MT and the ISO 20022 messaging standards, which will end with the termination of the legacy MT format in November 2025.

“Realisation of the benefits of the CPMI harmonisation requirements will depend, crucially, on their widespread uptake,” says the task force in its report. “Limited or incomplete uptake could lead to further fragmentation and lack of interoperability. The harmonisation requirements would complement existing market practice guidance by providing high-level requirements to be adopted by the various international and local usage guidelines.

“Ideally, harmonising usage of ISO 20022 for cross-border payments would be achieved on a wide scale, regardless of specific user community or use cases (ie it will not be tailored to one user community and use case only).”

The BIS is inviting comments on the proposals by 10 May, 2023. The BIS Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures intends to hold online workshops during the consultation period to strengthen broader industry engagement and facilitate responses to the consultative report.