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Cash Management and Payments Experts Gather for SAP ISO 20022 Forum

Last month, 80 cash management and payments experts met for a day-long session about the emerging ISO 20022 standard for corporate-bank connectivity.  The attendees represented banks, corporate customers, and SAP implementation partners.   The day featured a number of presentations, opportunities for informal networking, and group discussion.


Christian Mnich, Solution Manager for SAP’s Bank Communication Management application, provided an overview of the application’s capabilities.  He explained SAP’s current level of support for ISO 20022 message formats.  He pointed out that SAP offers corporate ERP users the option of using ISO 20022 with or without SWIFTNet as the physical connection.

Steffen Karsch, an SAP field consultant with extensive experience in ISO 20022 implementations, demonstrated how SAP’s out-of-the box support for ISO 20022 can be extended and customized using the Payment Medium Workbench, which ships with all instances of ERP Financials.

Alexandra Greiner, Head of SAP Treasury Systems for F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd, Switzerland, and Martin Schlageter, Head of Treasury Operations, gave a presentation about the company’s global platform for all treasury-related processes, including in-house banking, payment factory, cash management, trading & back office, and accounting & risk management.

Carlo Palmers of SWIFT provided an overview of the business case for ISO 20022, and explained its governance structures and overall architecture.  He explained SWIFT’s role as the ISO 20022 Registration Authority, whereby SWIFT manages the ISO 20022 Financial Repository.  He emphasized SWIFT’s commitment to and support for ISO 20022 in its network and in tools for developers.

Thomas Egner, Director of Group Banking Operations for Commerzbank AG and member of the European Payments Council (EPC), provided an update on the Single European Payment Area (SEPA) initiative.  He explained that SEPA Data Formats are based on the ISO 20022 XML message standards.  He stressed the importance of the SEPA credit transfer and direct debit schemes for the harmonization of payment systems across Europe, and indicated that ISO 20022 will have extensive ramifications outside Europe as well.

Alistair Thompson, Director Business Development for TDI Consulting, provided insights about the opportunities and challenges of corporate-bank connectivity.  He shared results from a survey that TDI conducted about ISO 20022, which highlight the fact that SEPA is just one part of the ISO 20022 picture, as global banks are rolling out ISO 20022 implementations in many regions of the world.

Leonard Schwartz, Corporate Director for ABN Amro / RBS, and Susan Colles, Senior Vice President for Bank of America’s eCommerce Automated Channel, gave a presentation about the history, present state, and future of ISO 20022.  As two of the primary activists in the Corporate Straight Through Processing Group (CSTP), they were present during CSTP’s initial push to define the standard and are deeply involved in current efforts to define a Common Global Implementation (CGI) of ISO 20022, which involves major global banks, key corporate customers, SWIFT, and ERP vendors.

Pascal Spittler, of IKEA Handels AG, described the work of the Corporate Reference Group (CRG), which he chairs.  CRG is a group of corporate bank customers, meeting under the auspices of UN/CEFACT, that has been working to define common approaches to corporate-bank connectivity from the corporate perspective.  CRG is the voice of corporate customers in the development of the Common Global Implementation of ISO 20022.


At the end of the day, I summarized what we had heard and discussed.  It was quite clear that corporates will not move to ISO 20022 simply to upgrade their message format.  Rather, corporates that are moving to ISO 20022 are doing so as part of restructuring efforts undertaken to streamline treasury operations by setting up an in-house bank, a payment factory, and/or a shared service center, or when consolidation is required to deal with an acquisition or merger.

The emerging specification of a Common Global Implementation of ISO 20022 is the product of an unprecedented level of cooperation among the major global banks, further strengthened by the involvement of ERP vendors, corporate customers, and SWIFT.  This cooperation has the potential to play an important role in helping corporate ERP users streamline and consolidate treasury operations across all of their banking relationships.

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