Starting March 2023, the migration to the ISO 20022 marks the genesis of the global standard for financial messaging. Chosen by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) as a new messaging standard to bring a common language and structure to the banking sector, ISO 20022 is now also being adopted by the players outside the traditional financial systems — namely, some crypto projects, colloquially known as "ISO 20022 coins."
In theory, compliance with ISO 20022 means that such projects will have an easy road to integration with this new financial system, which has already prompted speculations that these cryptocurrencies are going to soar in price when the transition to the new standard is finally completed.
But is this true, and what is the timeline for ISO 20022 implementation? And, more importantly, what are the coins that already support this standard? Read on to find out!
What is ISO 20022?
While there has been recently much buzz about ISO 20022 in finance, most people outside the industry have very little, if at all, understanding of what it means or why it is so significant for the global payments network. To grasp its importance for modern-day financial institutions, let's first investigate the current state of the payment industry.
If you have ever sent a cross-border transfer, you have most definitely heard about SWIFT, a global messaging system used by virtually all financial institutions across the globe. While there certainly exist some alternatives to SWIFT, it still absolutely dominates the market — and being cut off from this payment processing solution is considered one of the most restrictive sanctions that can be imposed on the state for breaking international law.
To put it in numbers, in 2021 SWIFT processed on average 42 million FIN messages daily — while its closest rival, China-sponsored CIPS, handled just 12,000 transactions per day. To date, only three states have been banned from SWIFT, namely Iran, North Korea, and Russia.
Historically, most financial institutions that are using SWIFT have developed different formats and standards for electronic data exchange. Without a standardized messaging format, existing financial systems often need custom solutions to communicate with each other. On the scale of millions of transactions daily, this leads to interoperability issues that cost banks billions every year. Furthermore, due to the complexity of integration, traditional messaging formats have limitations in the amount of information that can be transmitted in a single message, which is holding the entire financial industry back.
In this context, ISO 20022 is an attempt to bring a motley range of messaging formats under one roof. By implementing this universal financial messaging standard, financial institutions globally aim to...
Enhance interoperability: The uniform structure ensures that different financial systems can communicate more seamlessly with one another, significantly reducing the confusion and friction that has historically plagued cross-border payments. New messaging can be used for a variety of transactions, including domestic payments, cross-border payments, high-value payments, ACH, and real-time payments
Improve data quality: With more structured and comprehensive data formats, ISO 20022 allows banks to include more detailed information within each message. This increases the accuracy and richness of the data, making daily liquidity management more transparent and less prone to errors.
Reduce operational costs: By eliminating the need for custom solutions to bridge the gaps between disparate systems, ISO 20022 can lead to lower integration and maintenance costs. It also helps in reducing the errors that often result in financial losses or the need for manual intervention.
Increase efficiency: The standardized format streamlines processes and allows for automation, resulting in faster and more efficient operations. It also enables financial institutions to offer better services to their customers.
Open doors for innovation: ISO 20022 flexibility opens the door for innovative financial products and services, potentially allowing for the integration of new technologies like blockchain and AI into the financial ecosystem.
Boost security: With robust encryption and secure data handling practices, ISO 20022 helps in enhancing the security of financial data transmission and improving fraud detection.
Obviously, an undertaking on such a scale isn't a matter of months: after the delayed start of ISO 20022 in March 2023 (the initial launch was planned for November 2022), banks and centralized financial institutions worldwide will have until November 2025 to update their market infrastructures in accordance with the new standard. During this period, both MT (a traditional message type) and ISO 20022 messages will be supported to enable these entities to migrate their traffic at their own pace.
ISO 20022 crypto: list of compliant coins
"Ok, but what does it have to do with crypto?" you may ask. Granted, ISO 20022 relevance to the crypto industry may not be immediately obvious, since it exists rather independently of the global financial systems. However, as more market players become interested in bridging crypto and TradFi, the demand for ISO-certified cryptos is only going to grow.
For cryptocurrencies to be classified as a legitimate medium of exchange by ISO, they have to be assigned identifiers and registered with the ISO database, which will allow banks to use them as payments and manage them on behalf of their clients. Besides the digital token identifiers, ISO 20022-compliant coins also should fulfill all SWIFT criteria, such as the ability to pass customer data on the blockchain.
At the time of writing, the ISO 20022 compliant coins are:
The second-largest FinTech company in the United States, Ripple is an unquestionable leader when it comes to cross-border payments and remittances. Ripple's native token, XRP, is designed to move money at a blazing-fast speed and very low cost, acting as a bridge asset between different fiat currencies.
Ripple is also the only crypto industry member of the ISO 20022 management group, and has been vocal about its support for the ISO 20022. The company's adoption of this standard is part of its broader mission to enable secure, instant, and low-cost international transactions.
It's worth noting that while Ripple is indeed confirmed to be ISO 20022 compliant due to its long track record of being a remittance coin for banks, others in this list are just speculated to be either ISO-certified or taking steps to compliance.
A fork of Ripple, Stellar is a blockchain-based platform that aims to make cross-border transfers fast and cost-effective, but, unlike Ripple, which caters to banking systems, it's more geared towards governments and CBDCs.
Stellar's partnership with various governments and financial institutions around the world shows its commitment to integrating with the global financial infrastructure, and its speculated compliance with ISO 20022 poses it for even greater expansion.
Algorand (ALGO) is a decentralized, public blockchain network that aims to provide a scalable and secure platform for creating decentralized applications (dApps) and digital currencies. It was founded by Silvio Micali, a Turing Award-winning computer scientist, and was launched in 2019.
One of the standout features of Algorand is its consensus mechanism, known as the Algorand Consensus Algorithm (ACA), which is designed to confirm transactions quickly without compromising security. The ACA is a form of Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism that randomly selects validators for each block, thereby ensuring a high level of decentralization.
Quant (QNT) is a blockchain interoperability project that aims to connect different blockchains, allowing them to work together. The goal of Quant is to enable the creation of multichain applications (MApps) that can run on multiple blockchains without a new consensus mechanism.
Quant Network's Overledger is designed to provide a meta-gateway for existing blockchains and networks to connect to each other, creating an Internet of Trust. It aims to allow developers to build decentralized applications across different protocols without needing to create new tokens or assets.
Hedera Hashgraph (HBAR)
Hedera Hashgraph (HBAR) is a public distributed ledger platform that aims to provide a more scalable and secure alternative to traditional blockchain technology. It is known for its unique consensus algorithm called Hashgraph, developed by Dr. Leemon Baird.
By opting for a directed acyclic graph (DAG) structure instead of a traditional blockchain, Hedera Hashgraph aims to overcome some of its limitations, such as scalability and efficiency bottlenecks. However, it's worth noting that some critics have raised concerns about the platform's level of decentralization.
IOTA (MIOTA) is a distributed ledger technology designed to enable secure, feeless, and scalable transactions and data transfer within the interconnected devices that comprise the Internet of Things (IoT). Unlike traditional blockchains, IOTA uses a structure called the Tangle, which is a type of directed acyclic graph (DAG).
IOTA is explicitly designed to support the Internet of Things. The IoT landscape involves billions of devices communicating and transacting with one another, and IOTA aims to become the foundational layer for this machine-to-machine (M2M) economy.
XDC Network (XDC)
XDC Network (XDC) is an enterprise-ready hybrid blockchain technology designed to support various industries, including trade finance, foreign exchange, remittances, and more. It was created with a mission to combine the benefits of private and public blockchains through its unique architecture.
The XDC Network is designed to comply with the ISO 20022 standard, a universal financial industry messaging scheme. This ensures that the network can communicate seamlessly with traditional financial institutions and systems.
ISO 20022 coins in the context of the new Quantum Financial System
While ISO 20022 is indeed expected to open a new era for business transactions globally, there's nothing really "new" or "quantum" about it. Recently, with the new developments in the field of quantum computing, some started theorizing about how its adoption by central banks combined with AI and blockchain will revolutionize finance, giving birth to the concept of QFS — a sci-fi vision for the global monetary system. In our recent article, we have already explored the hypothetical scenarios of such a technological breakthrough and what it may bring.
Naturally, some have tied ISO 20022 to the idea of a new global money system, implying that a selected few cryptocurrencies may be adopted under the broader vision of QFS. However, at the current stage of quantum tech development, the idea of the Quantum Financial System remains pure science fiction without any substantial backing from scientists or policymakers.
As more TradFi institutions transition to ISO 20022, many crypto projects will face a tough choice: to embrace the new standard and compromise on some core crypto principles, or risk being outcompeted by those who won't have a second thought about it. The adoption of ISO 20022 in the crypto space is more than a mere compliance checkbox; it represents a strategic alignment with one of the two forces in finance: DeFi and CeFi.
Adopting ISO 20022 can facilitate global mainstream adoption of crypto projects by traditional banking systems, allowing for more seamless cross-border transactions and integration with existing financial workflows. On the other hand, failure to adapt to the ISO 20022 standard will most probably hinder the adoption of cryptocurrencies in mainstream finance. Traditional institutions may be reluctant to engage with crypto projects that do not conform to established standards, limiting potential partnerships and growth opportunities.