Boris Brunner__Head of Business Development & Operations, SIX Interbank Clearing AG

Who would have thought?

Last fall I certainly wouldn’t have bet on 80% of the corporate clients served by Swiss financial institutions having made the changeover to ISO 20022 by mid-2018. Back then we were still a very long way from this ambitious goal. We assumed that as always in a case like this, the client migration project would require more than the allotted time. Typically you have to add six months to the desired deadline, because it’s in the nature of things for everyone to wait until the last minute. How wrong we were! By 30 June 2018 a whole 80% of companies had indeed completed the switch to ISO 20022. This was a herculean task for everyone involved, mastered with aplomb.

How did Switzerland achieve this ambitious target?

It’s an outstanding achievement we didn’t dare to expect – particularly in light of the EU’s experience with the SEPA changeover a few years ago when all companies in the EU were legally obliged to comply with ISO 20022. Even though the deadline for migration was laid down by law, the target wasn’t achieved and the timeframe had to be extended. In Switzerland there was nothing stipulated in the law to underscore the urgency of changing over to ISO 20022. All we could do was argue the benefits to bank relationship managers, software partners, and companies. Despite a few initial difficulties, we were increasingly able to persuade people of the advantages of ISO 20022. As a representative survey by gfs.bern shows, 75% of corporate clients that have completed the changeover recognize the benefits of standardization in line with ISO 20022.

We can be proud of what has been achieved so far. Software partners and financial institutions have actively informed, advised, and supported their clients. More than 100 associations and various federal authorities have run information events, articles, and other communications that have helped ensure the challenge was heard and understood. They have motivated their clients and customers to take an active part in the changeover. Has this been easy? Certainly not, especially given that the topic of ISO 20022 per se is abstract, dry and hard to communicate. This is what makes the achievement all the more astonishing. I’d like to thank everyone involved. Without you this gargantuan task would have been impossible. We haven’t quite reached the end of our journey. The last gaps in the migration have to be closed by the end of 2018. Again, this will require effort from everyone. ISO 20022 is the basis for the introduction of the QR-bill – something that many are already awaiting with impatience.