Urs Bieri__co-director of gfs.bern

People don’t like giving up old habits

A whole 93% of business clients are satisfied or fairly satisfied with domestic payment transfer traffic. We rarely see such high figures in our surveys. The organizations and authorities we polled say they find payment traffic quick, punctual, reliable, and secure. They do, however, see room for improvement when it comes to cross-border payments. Paying bills from abroad could be even simpler; it’s not uncommon for funds to be returned, which necessitates inquiries.

What do such high satisfaction ratings mean for a major project like payment system harmonization? The main thing is that the new solution can’t be less persuasive than the old one from the user point of view. It’s important for customers to see a concrete benefit; that helps break down barriers and give impetus to the necessary work within the organizations concerned. When we conducted the survey in summer 2016 there was still little awareness of the changeover and its benefits; this is going to have to be stepped up in the coming months. Last but not least, as in any infrastructure project the costs matter: when people are already satisfied with a solution, they want to invest as few resources as possible to renew it.

In most cases, organizations and authorities that have already launched a harmonization project internally are aware that it involves international standards, a QR code to replace the existing payment slips, and end-to-end automation of the exchange of data between companies and banks. They view the harmonization of payment traffic as something positive, and a clear majority see only, or predominantly, benefits for Switzerland. Above all, in the long term they anticipate more straightforward payment processes, simpler reporting procedures, fewer errors, and greater efficiency. This is all good news for a project attempting to do something new.

On the other hand there’s a lack of pressure in the form of tangible problems, and various user groups have the impression it’s a purely banking project. Given the other challenges they face in their core business, it’s no surprise that some companies are putting off the project. In the next few months the job will be to bring a certain amount of urgency into the proceedings and show that the changeover will bring concrete benefits and that the investment will pay off.


In summer 2016 gfs.bern surveyed various target groups, including users, on behalf of PaymentStandards.CH. Users are defined as people who in the course of their work initiate payments or who are responsible for payment traffic. The surveys covered public-sector authorities, private-sector companies, associations, foundations, and NPOs in German- and French-speaking Switzerland. The surveys were conducted between July and August 2016. More information