Skip to main content
  • English
    Discover SWIFT
  • Español
    Descubra nuestros contenidos en español
  • Français
    Découvrez notre contenu disponible en français
  • 中文
  • 日本語

Find out how you can harness ISO 20022 to reduce false positive alerts, generate quantifiable efficiency gains, improve SLAs, and reduce costs.

The situation today

Friction arising from sanctions screening is a constant challenge for financial institutions. Unstructured data regularly results in exception handling, with payments delayed by slow filtering. Straight-through processing can be interrupted for two main reasons:

  • Unstructured data leading to ambiguous processing. For example, the word ‘Cuba’ might appear in the final beneficiary field combining the name of the beneficiary customer with address details including the street and town where the payment is going.
  • Incomplete or missing data. This may lead to requests for additional information to discount false positives, or to address situations where information is missing according to payment transparency standards.

In practice, 5-10% of payments generate an alert, according to industry figures – and of those alerts, 99% are false positives.

The result: expensive and time-consuming manual activities, high operational costs, dissatisfied customers, and the risk of financial loss and reputational damage if cut-off times are missed.

The opportunity with ISO 20022

ISO 20022 addresses the challenge by providing distinct, well-defined data elements in clear structures, as well as including more elements and more space than existing standards.

With a more targeted approach to screening, it’s estimated that financial institutions could reduce false positives by 25-30%.

The shift to ISO 20022 creates clear opportunities for efficiency in the sanctions screening process. Using rich and structured data, you can tune and model your existing sanctions screening rules and scenarios.

ISO 20022 messages (pacs.008) provide an opportunity for greater data quality with:

  • Name and structured address fields.
  • Clear, simple, and human-intelligible tags for each data element, reducing confusion between names, street names, towns, and countries.
  • Dedicated fields for ultimate parties.
  • Greater field length, which reduces the risk of data truncation.
  • Financial institution (BIC) and legal entity (LEI) identifiers, improving transparency and the unambiguous identification of legal persons.
Run your business use cases


By using structured data in the ISO 20022 format, you can avoid alerts and reduce the number of false positives generated during sanctions screening. Take these two examples:

Example 1: Qanawat is the name of a media company based in Dubai. When a payment is made to the company, an alert may be generated due to the similarity of the company name to Qanavat, an embargoed city in Iran. But when the MX format is used, the name and city are unambiguously identified in the ISO 20022 message – meaning that the alert can be avoided, and the payment completed while saving time, effort, and costs.

Example 2: A payment is made to ACME company, Valencia. Not only does the party information lack important information such as the country, but the information supplied may lead to an alert against Valencia, the third largest city in Venezuela and a country that is sanctioned by many jurisdictions. However, with the MX format, it’s possible to check for the presence of all required fields (Name, Town, Country). Rules can also be written to discard alerts that relate to Valencia in Spain, rather than Valencia in Venezuela.

Bottom line

Reduce false positives by using the structured data in the ISO 20022 format, thereby improving efficiency, and freeing up operational teams to focus on real risks.

As the rate of ISO 20022 adoption and the quality of data across the industry continues to increase, we see significant potential for a reduction of false positives based on the granularity of data and the clear identification and description of information in each message.
Jan-Gerrit Iken MD, Global Head of Anti Financial Crime Transaction Monitoring & Screening Regulations, Deutsche Bank

Supercharge your payments business with ISO 20022

Leading financial institutions share insights on the concrete benefits opened up by ISO 20022’s rich, structured data capabilities.