Patrick Beer__financial accountant, Wander AG

Why standards are so important for everything from Ovaltine to payment traffic

Imagine you’ve just bought a new tin of Ovaltine. You’re familiar with the product and know what it looks and tastes like. But what you’ve have before you isn’t what you’re accustomed to. It lacks that dominant malty taste; in fact it now tastes of chocolate. The powder’s not as fine as you’re used to. You have the vague feeling that something must have gone wrong. But what does it mean to say that something has “gone wrong?”

This example is designed to illustrate the expectations consumers have of a product – whether it’s Ovaltine, shower gel, or a service. Where do these expectations come from? Or, to ask the same question from the manufacturer or service provider’s point of view, how can we satisfy these high expectations?

The journey always starts with the end-product. This has to be defined – sometimes clearly, sometimes less so. You have to ask certain questions: What do customers expect from our product? What need must our product meet? Does every customer expect the same thing, or do their expectations differ?

Applying this logic to payment traffic, it’s clear that the expectations a new standard has to meet – including the end-product and all the steps on the way to it – are enormous. In a global business environment with such a wide variety of different senders and recipients of data, all these countless requirements and expectations have to be catered to and fulfilled.

To survive and succeed in such a complex and varied environment, the path to the end-product also has to be precisely defined – which means that not just the end-product itself, but all the steps in between, have to be standardized. In a small country like Switzerland it’s vital that everyone use the same format for payments – not only digitally (pain and camt), but analog as well (QR-bill). With the project to harmonize payments in Switzerland and the new ISO 20022 standard that accompanies it, the Swiss financial industry is taking a major step in precisely this direction. Old approaches are giving way to formats designed to meet new and in some cases more sophisticated expectations engendered by digital transformation and globalization. And most importantly, all institutions are using the new standard. Only by adopting a uniform standard can you make sure that customers can rely on an end-product from a given “manufacturer” coming up to the desired expectations in terms of quality and quantity.

It goes without saying that customers have this expectation. After all, who would want to have to deal with a new payment format every day? Or to return to our metaphor: would you like it if your Ovaltine tasted different every morning?