Jean-Marc Hensch__CEO of Swico

Pixels versus media breaks

Back in the good old days everything was so “easy”: you carefully filled out your payment slips at home, went to the bank, withdrew the cash you needed, and then paid your bills at the post office.

Digitization has completely changed the way things are done, especially in business. These days companies handle incoming and outgoing payments electronically. Naturally they’d most like to do things completely electronically, without any paper bills at all. But that won’t be realistic for many years yet.

Nevertheless, paper invoices with payment slips have outlived their usefulness. The main problem is that they lead to additional work and the risk of errors because they involve a change of format and the need to re-enter the data. Financial institutions have seen the writing on the wall and have joined forces to find a viable solution going forward: a new standard, ISO 20022, is being established to transfer all the information relevant to a booking, including individual client and reference numbers and dates, electronically.

But PaymentsStandards.CH – not without the help of Swico – has also realized that merely harmonizing within the financial industry itself isn’t enough. Nowadays most companies don’t work directly with their financial institution, but have embedded payment traffic in their IT as part of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system integrating every area of their business from production and personnel to marketing.

For this reason Swico has amalgamated the interests of ERP providers to ensure that requirements from this side are also taken account of in a constructive dialog with PaymentStandards.CH. From the ERP providers’ point of view, the results are very satisfactory: they can now design their products in such a way that the necessary information is forwarded and received electronically by means of a standardized interface.

The main beneficiaries of this good collaboration will be the countless companies in Switzerland that will now be able to handle payments internally in a seamless, error-free process involving substantially less work.

Switzerland’s strengths as a center of innovation include an outstanding infrastructure – something, for example, that foreign companies moving here often emphasize. I would contend that the payment slip and its successor, the QR code, are just as much part of this country’s basic infrastructure as its freeways and electricity grid.