Finance & Procurement

4 Questions with Isak Penttila: ISO 20022 Insights  

As ISO 20022 deadlines inch closer, it seems there are more outstanding questions than answers. Speaking with a trusted partner or advisor can place your organization in the best possible position before implementation efforts begin.

Isak Penttila, ISO 20022 expert

We have shared insights in several publications, but I also recently sat down with ISO 20022 expert Isak Penttila to gain his perspective on ISO 20022. Isak is a payments modernization consultant with experience in both North America and Europe. He brings eight years of experience in payments modernization, in many cases with an extra focus on ISO 20022. Isak is also active in the global ISO 20022 community, acting as the co-convenor of the ISO 20022 Payment Standards Evaluation Group among other things. 

Isak’s take on ISO 20022: It’s a big deal, with even bigger benefits.

Can you briefly explain your journey with ISO 20022? 

Isak: I first started working with ISO 20022 in 2015. At the time I was working at a commercial bank in Sweden and as a non-euro country, the deadline for SEPA payments was in the fall of 2016. I came in just over a year before go-live. Our main goal was to get our corporate clients, big and small, to complete their migration efforts, so I got to see it in action from the beginning. It was an interesting start to the journey as I saw how ISO 20022 is leveraged. This is something that continues to provide value to my work to this day, as I now have firsthand experience of the vast number of benefits associated with ISO 20022. Now about eight years later, I have seen ISO 20022 from many different perspectives, and have enjoyed every minute of it.  

From your perspective, why is ISO 20022 such a big deal? How do you anticipate it will change the payments landscape?  

Isak: I’ve seen ISO 20022 from different perspectives in my career and it is fascinating how different the benefits of ISO 20022 are for a corporate user, compared to a bank or a market infrastructure. To me the reason ISO 20022 is such a big deal is just that there are benefits of the new standard that are exciting to everyone in the ecosystem.  

For example, some of the benefits of ISO 20022 could be listed out into separate categories.  


  • Greater straight through processing 
  • Fewer false positives in sanctions screening 
  • Decreased number of failed payments 
  • Improved value propositions for corporate customers 

Banks Corporate Customers:  

  • Improved management of cash flow and liquidity  
  • Decreased manual activities by utilizing value-added solutions, such as automatic receivables reconciliation  
  • Improved cross border payment experience   

Financial technology partner:  

  • Improved innovation with the rich ISO 20022 data that will arrive with the payment 
  • Extensive opportunities associated with the digitization and automation of payments  
  • Improved value propositions for customers  

Market infrastructures:  

  • Improved interoperability and payment flexibility 
  • Increased innovation opportunities associated with the evolving nature of ISO 20022 
  • Mitigated complexities associated with siloed systems and data   

This is all to say that ISO 20022 is a big deal because of how much it will mean collectively for the entire ecosystem.  

What would you say is the greatest benefit of ISO 20022? What are some of the challenges you are noticing as it relates to ISO 20022 implementation? 

Isak: Personally, I’m most excited about the innovation opportunities. Migrating to ISO 20022 might be the end of a project, but it is just the beginning of the journey. I’m excited to see new products and services that will come from ISO 20022 together with other exciting new features such as real-time payments and request to pay, just to name a few.  

There are immediate challenges such as dealing with the rich data, but the most significant challenge is to get the strategy right. It is hard to get the strategy right if you don’t know what the ISO 20022 migration will mean in the long term for your organization. Unfortunately, I talk to too many that see ISO 20022 migrations as a compliance issue, and we hear the term ‘like-for-like migration’ way too often. If you do get the strategy right, I strongly believe that it will set you up for an interesting future.  

What is your advice for those who have not yet started their ISO 20022 journey or have recently begun implementations? 

Isak: Get an understanding first! This is, unfortunately, easier said than done. ISO 20022 is complex and as I’ve said, it means very different things for the different players in the ecosystem. Without that clear understanding it is unfortunately very easy to think of ISO 20022 migration in a like-for-like manner, which is not going to provide all the benefits that it promises.  

The countdown has started! Learn more about how you can prepare for ISO 20022 with OpenText. 

Alexis Holland

Alexis Holland is an experienced product marketer and financial services thought leader. Driven by solving complex client payment needs, she takes pride in providing the best customer experience possible by effectively communicating the numerous benefits of the financial services offerings within OpenText Business Network. With years of experience in the financial services industry, Alexis enjoys topics around the rapidly growing and constantly changing world of banking and payments. Alexis is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at OpenText, she leads product marketing efforts for Financial Services.

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