Revolutionizing Cross-Border Payments: Embracing the ISO 20022 Standard

Harsha Maloo - Head of Payments at Synthesis
Harsha Maloo - Head of Payments at Synthesis

Revolutionizing Cross-Border Payments: Embracing the ISO 20022 Standard 

By Harsha Maloo, Head of Payments at Synthesis

In the rapidly evolving landscape of cross-border payments, one trend stands out as a game-changer: the migration of SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) into the ISO 20022 standards. This shift impacts global banks and holds significant potential for transforming the way we conduct international transactions. With the ISO 20022 standard's data-rich framework, enhanced transparency, efficiency, and compliance are set to revolutionize the payment ecosystem. In this article, we delve into the future of cross-border payments and explore how the adoption of ISO 20022 is shaping the payment landscape. 

Unlocking the Power of ISO 20022: 

The ISO 20022 standard brings forth a multitude of benefits by enabling more detailed and structured data within cross-border payments. By incorporating better structure and more granular data end to end carried in payment message, the ISO standard enhances communication between banks. This data richness paves the way for improved transparency, accuracy, and processing efficiency in international payments, ultimately streamlining reconciliation and compliance procedures. 

Interoperability and Innovation: 

The adoption of ISO 20022 also fosters interoperability among different payment systems worldwide. Previously, various regions and countries relied on their respective payment systems which would use SWIFT standards to communicate between the banks but proprietary messaging standards internally, creating complexities and delays in transacting. However, with SWIFT transitioning to the ISO standard, a common platform emerges, facilitating smoother interactions between disparate payment systems. This seamless connectivity not only encourages innovation but also accelerates product development within the industry. Moreover, as compliance becomes more straightforward and all participants adhere to the same standard, ISO 20022 facilitates the creation of new services and enhanced straight-through processing. 

The Global Impact

The migration to the ISO 20022 standard is not limited to a particular region or a handful of banks. Instead, it encompasses the entire global financial ecosystem, making it a monumental shift with wide-reaching implications. As banks across the globe adopt the ISO standard, the cross-border payment landscape gains a standardized foundation that eliminates the complexities and inconsistencies associated with legacy messaging standards. The harmonization of payment protocols enhances collaboration, fosters trust, and drives the industry towards a more efficient and secure future.  

Looking Ahead: 

With the transformation underway, the future of cross-border payments holds tremendous potential. The ISO 20022 standard sets the stage for an interconnected payment ecosystem that empowers businesses, facilitates international trade, and enables seamless transactions across borders. As the industry embraces this new paradigm, financial institutions, businesses, and consumers alike can look forward to a more transparent, efficient, and compliant cross-border payment landscape. 


The migration of SWIFT into the ISO 20022 standard marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of cross-border payments. This industry-wide shift towards a data-rich framework promises improved transparency, accuracy, and processing efficiency. Additionally, it fosters interoperability, innovation, and enhances compliance, thereby revolutionizing the global payment landscape. By embracing the potential of ISO 20022, financial institutions can harness the power of standardized communication, enabling secure, streamlined, and future-ready cross-border transactions. 


About Synthesis

Synthesis is a true South African success story. Synthesis believes that providing innovative solutions based on emerging technologies will help their clients become globally competitive. Synthesis focuses on banking and financial institutions, retail, media and telecommunications sectors in South Africa and other emerging markets.

In 2017 Capital Appreciation Limited, a JSE-listed Fintech company, acquired 100 percent of Synthesis. Following the acquisition, Synthesis remains an independent operating entity within the Capital Appreciation Group providing Cloud, Digital and RegTech services as well as corporate learning solutions through the Synthesis Academy.