ISO 20022

Payments Canada is leading the effort to introduce ISO 20022 — an international standard designed to simplify global business communication — for payments in Canada. It has defined new ISO 20022 payment messages and rules to be used between its member financial institutions, and acts as the knowledge leader for ISO 20022 in Canada by providing resources and support with its participant financial institutions and stakeholders through education, training and operational support.


Data-Rich Payments

What does ISO 20022 mean for Canadians? Payments carrying more information with each transaction, better interoperability, more convenience and opportunities for economic efficiency.

Payments Canada acts as the ongoing manager of the Canadian ISO 20022 usage guidelines and message specifications, while managing changes based on the needs of participant financial institutions and stakeholders. It will also actively support the adoption of ISO 20022 and communicate results to participant financial institutions and stakeholders on a regular basis.

In February, 2016, Payments Canada completed the multi-year development of new ISO 20022 payments messages for AFT, related rules and standards, and an adoption strategy for its participant financial institutions. This work involved extensive industry consultation and the publication of ISO 20022 messages for use in AFT as well as other corporate-to-bank and bank-to-corporate messages.

Since that time, the Modernization initiative moved forward with ISO 20022-related work on both Lynx, Canada’s new high-value payment system and Real-Time Rail, Canada’s new real-time payment system.

The next phase of Payments Canada’s ISO 20022 initiative will focus on the multi-year task of implementing and supporting the new standard in Canada.

Message Maintenance

Keeping ISO 20022 electronic payment messages current and effective – our portfolio maintenance process

Payments Canada has adopted ISO 20022 as the standard for electronic payment messages that travel across our infrastructure. To meet the needs of financial institutions, businesses and their customers, we’ve developed a rich portfolio of ISO 20022 payment messages. These messages can be used in Canada to meet the needs of payors and payees in many different payment scenarios.

To optimize the benefits of ISO 20022 in Canada, we’ve committed to maintaining the most recent versions of the messages in our portfolio. To help us do this, we’ve established a formal maintenance schedule. The maintenance schedule was developed in conjunction with SWIFT to align with their MT Standards Release Schedule. This means that the message portfolio is reviewed each year and updated as required. In the future, as more payment schemes adopt ISO 20022 messages, we’ll review our maintenance schedule to ensure it remains appropriate.

Our ISO 20022 program governance structure provides us with input from multiple perspectives when we consider any changes to our message portfolio. An ISO 20022 Task Force, comprised of technical operations experts from participating financial institutions, provides advice and expertise on the efficient and effective use of ISO 20022 for payments cleared and settled through our systems. Payments Canada’s Senior Operational Committee provides a more strategic operational lens. It gives input on, or endorses, any changes recommended by the Task Force. The Senior Operational Committee is also consulted on strategic issues related to ISO 20022. Payments Canada provides final approval of any endorsed usage changes as well as the addition of any new messages to the ISO 20022 message portfolio. We also keep the Bank of Canada, which has oversight of our payment systems, informed of any significant changes.

The Payments Canada Board of Directors provides overall oversight. We seek their approval of any changes to Payments Canada rules and standards that we recommend as a result of changes in ISO 20022 usage. The board’s direction and approval are also sought for significant changes in policy related to ISO 20022.


For more information on the ISO 20022 message portfolio or the maintenance process, please contact

ISO 20022 is an international standard designed to simplify global business communication. 

The standard enables efficient payments clearing and settlement among financial institutions globally through the use of a common set of messages and language that the institutions agree to use in a consistent way. It allows participants and systems across different financial markets (e.g. payments, securities, foreign exchange, cards) to communicate using consistent terminology or syntax, which supports interoperability and more remittance information within the payment message. It is an open standard that anyone can use, and to which anyone can contribute.

The ISO 20022 standard was developed by ISO (International Organization for Standardization), which is the world’s largest developer of voluntary International Standards. 

The ISO 20022 standard is managed on behalf of ISO by SWIFT (the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) as the Registration Authority for ISO 20022.

For an overview of the ISO 20022 standard and it’s governance, visit

Canada’s core payments infrastructure has supported our industry for decades with good performance and clearing and settlement cycles, but Canada’s economy is being reshaped by digital technology, changing user demands, new entrants and changing regulatory oversight. To address these shifting needs, Payments Canada – with the help of the industry – has launched a multi-year initiative to modernize the Canadian payment systems, with ISO 20022 at its foundation for payment messaging. 

By adopting ISO 20022, Canadian payment systems users will benefit from: 

  1. Enhanced Remittance data: ISO 20022 addresses the current need in Canada for more remittance information to support automated reconciliation and straight-through processing. That means more information – such as information from multiple invoices – can be sent with a single electronic payment, reducing the need for manual intervention and re-keying of data, making business processes more efficient. 
  2. Support for global interoperability: Canada is joining numerous countries around the world in adopting ISO 20022 to facilitate cross-border payments, which will also support global competitiveness for Canadian businesses.
  3. Efficiencies in managing/supporting multiple payments standards: ISO 20022 allows the financial services industry in Canada to consolidate the current Lynx, Automated Funds Transfer (AFT) and EDI payment standards into a single, global standard. This will reduce the cost and effort associated with supporting multiple standards, support innovation, and enable third-party service providers and payment system users to receive and generate both payment and remittance data in a single message.
  4. Reduction in the use of paper-based payment options: ISO 20022 will provide Canadians with attractive electronic payment options that reduce costs (think fewer and fewer cheques or drafts) and reduce inefficiencies over paper-based alternatives. 
  5. These improvements will support domestic commerce and strengthen Canada’s competitiveness as a trading nation. It will also create new opportunities for every financial institution, payment service provider and business in Canada.

Remittance information is supplied to enable the matching/reconciliation of a payments entry with the items that the payment is intended to settle, such as commercial invoices in an accounts' receivable system.

Today’s digital economy and the rise of electronic payments has created a need for more information to travel along with the payment message. And while our legacy systems serve us well, they lack the ability to provide the information users need, resulting in barriers to end-to-end straight through processing - key to allowing Canadian businesses, governments and financial institutions to initiate, receive and reconcile electronic payments efficiently.

The exchange of more remittance information with payments offers the potential for:

  • Straight-through Processing
  • Automated reconciliation of incoming payments with outstanding invoices
  • Easier payment tracking, issue resolution and system reconciliation for both customers and financial institutions
  • Consistency in providing remittance information, resulting in efficiency and cost benefit

Structured data in ISO 20022 is information that travels with a payment organized in a standardized way that makes it easier for all parties in the payment chain to share and consistently identify data required for payment processing. This is important because it reduces errors and improves the efficiency of payments, which saves time and resources.

For example, when a corporation needs to send a payment to a supplier, ISO 20022 structured data ensures that all the necessary information, such as beneficiary details, account numbers and currency codes, are presented in a structured and standardized way. 

In the legacy alternatives, many different data points, such as the name of a person and the postal address, could appear lumped together in the same field. This would make it hard for systems and people to know what is what. With ISO 20022 structured data, the information is populated into appropriate fields, so the receiver knows exactly what they need to know to process the payment efficiently.

Standards play an important role in the development and facilitation of business through the promotion of safety, quality and technical compatibility. The standards currently relied upon for domestic payment traffic in Canada are not consistently applied by all financial institutions and businesses. The application of different standards results in inefficiencies in the marketplace and an inconsistent user experience. There are also some domestic standards that are not interoperable for cross-border transactions, requiring financial institutions and their customers to develop workaround solutions (such as message conversion or translation) to overcome these limitations.

The move to the ISO 20022 standard not only aligns domestic payment systems and addresses the needs of Canadian financial institutions and businesses, it also broadens interoperability of the Canadian payments marketplace with the rest of the world where ISO 20022 is increasingly being adopted.

Canadian financial institutions will be able to leverage the initial investments in ISO 20022 as it is rolled out across global services and systems, enhancing or easing access to international markets and customers. At the same time, the use of a future oriented standard based on widely accepted and accessible technology can remove barriers to entry and create a healthy competitive environment.

In today’s environment, financial institutions and their customers are required to manage payments standards for each of the existing payment systems, including AFT (also known as Electronic Funds Transfer), EDI and Lynx. Implementing and supporting these standards is costly. While all of the current standards carry the requisite information to ensure that the funds can move from one account to another, they use different formatting, terminology and technologies to describe specific data fields and to create the different messages.

Using a single standard decreases the complexity and cost associated with supporting multiple standards over time. It also provides more flexibility for customers when dealing with multiple financial institutions and lessens the need for customization and manual intervention.

ISO 20022 will support efficiencies in business processes for business clients. Enhanced remittance data will support automated reconciliation and straight-through processing. That means more information – such as information from multiple invoices – can be sent with a single electronic payment, reducing the need for manual intervention and re-keying of data, making business processes more efficient.

ISO 20022 also allows the financial services industry in Canada to consolidate the current Lynx, AFT and EDI payment standards into a single, global standard. This will reduce the cost and effort associated with managing multiple payments standards, support innovation across the payments landscape, and enable third-party service providers and payment system users to receive and generate both payment and remittance data in a single message.

Multinational corporations will also benefit from global interoperability as more and more jurisdictions are moving to the ISO 20022 standard. 

Business clients are encouraged to work with their financial institution and their business partners to determine how best to implement and take advantage of the benefits of ISO 20022 payments messages.

For more on how payments modernization and ISO 20022 in particular, could benefit Canadian businesses, governments and other organizations, see our case studies, which are intended to raise awareness for the possible future state of payments. They are also intended to provide organizations with some foundational and technical resources to formulate their own unique business case for the modernization of their internal processes.

Payments Canada has published ISO 20022 messages and rules for the exchange of AFT payments between its participant financial institutions, based on a market driven approach. Payments Canada will monitor implementation rates to determine if a mandated end-date for ISO AFT adoption is required to ensure the industry transition to the new payments standard is completed in a timely manner. 

Payments Canada has also published ISO 20022 message specifications for Lynx, Canada’s new high-value payments system, to support financial institution participants in developing their own ISO 20022 enabled internal systems, so they can eventually generate and process customer and financial institution wire payments in Lynx when the system goes live.

Adoption of ISO 20022 is tightly integrated with the work of Payments Canada’s Modernization initiative, because the scope, timing and impact of this work may also impact strategic investment decisions, related to ISO 20022, by our participant financial institutions.

As participant financial institutions migrate to the new ISO 20022 messages, on a voluntary basis, they will be required to support and maintain the existing standard as well, during what is known as a coexistence period. Ideally, this period of time will be as short as possible to help participant financial institutions avoid unnecessary duplication of costs and effort required to support multiple standards.

In building the portfolio of Payments Canada ISO 20022 messages for AFT payments, Payments Canada began by mapping the current AFT standard to the relevant ISO 20022 formats as close to “like-for-like” or “equivalent” as possible, while also providing for the inclusion of optional structured and unstructured remittance information. 

The breakdown of the Standard 005 Logical Records and the ISO 20022 messages formats that were mapped against them is available in the ISO 20022 Resource Centre.

The Lynx ISO 20022 portfolio currently contains the Business Application Header (head.001) as well as the FI to FI Customer Credit Transfer (pacs.008) and the Financial Institution Credit Transfer (pacs.009). These are the messages that are currently scheduled for implementation in Lynx Phase 2 (exact timing still to be agreed).

Payments Canada has developed a comprehensive Standards Management Framework to support the maintenance and management of ISO 20022 messages. It includes processes to manage change and evolution within the messages, as well as incorporating new messages as required by Members and Stakeholders.

Through a mix of mandatory and optional data elements to be included in the payment messages.