Financial Services File Formats and Document Standards

There are many financial services file formats, document standards and message types, but what do they all mean and where are they used?


The United States ACH Network is a batch processing, store-and-forward system, governed by The NACHA Operating Rules, which provide for the interbank clearing of electronic payments for participating depository financial institutions. ACH payments include

  • Direct Deposit of payroll, Social Security and other government benefits, and tax refunds
  • Direct Payment of such consumer bills as mortgages, loans, utility bills, and insurance premiums
  • Business-to-business payments
  • e-Commerce payments
  • Federal, state, and local payments

Further information about the ACH Network can be found here »
Further information about ACH Rules can be found here »
Further information about ACH Standard Entry Class (SEC) Codes can be found here »


American National Standards Institute, Accredited Standards Committee X12, which comprises government and industry members who create EDI standards for submission to ANSI for approval and dissemination. ANSI X12 is primarily used in the United States while the rest of the world uses EDIFACT transaction sets. The ASC X12 committee also contributes to UN/EDIFACT messages that are used widely outside of the United States.

Further information about ASC X12 can be found here »
Further information about the ANSI X12 financial document types can be found here »


The BAI2 file format (preceded by BAI1) was developed by the Bank Administration Institute (BAI) as a cash management balance reporting specification. In 2008, the BAI transferred copyright ownership of the BAI file format to the Accredited Standards Committee X9, Inc. (ASC X9). ASC X9 has developed a next generation standard called the Balance Transaction Reporting Standard (BTRS).

Further information about the BAI2 standard can be found here »
A copy of the BAI2 specification is can be found here »
Further information about BAI2 type codes can be found here »


The Balance Transaction Reporting Standard is the next generation of cash management reporting roughly equivalent to BAI3 (See BAI2 above). The goals of the BTRS standard are to enable straight through processing through standardization, be as backward compatible as possible and align with the global ISO 20022 standard.

Further information about BTRS can be found here »
Further information about the BTRS standard can be found here »


UN/EDIFACT (the United Nations rules for Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport) comprise a set of internationally agreed standards, directories, and guidelines for the electronic interchange of structured data, between independent computerized information systems. EDIFACT is widely used across Europe, mainly due to the fact that many companies adopted it very early on. EDIFACT has seen some adoption in the ASPAC region; however, there are currently more XML based standards being used in this particular region today.

Further information about EDIFACT can be found here »
Further information about the EDIFACT financial document types can be found here »


Banks use the FEBRABAN 240 file format to digitally exchange information with its clients for a variety of products and services. These products and services include collections (bank bills, payments, extracts (to reconciliation), direct debits, and custody vendor checks. Each of these products has its information flow and defined file layout. These files have a fixed format text with columns defined by FEBRABAN. Each bank has its own variations within the standard.

Further information about FEBRABAN can be found here »
A copy of the FEBRABAN 240 specification (in Portuguese) can be found here »


The Financial Information eXchange (FIX) Protocol is a messaging standard developed specifically for the real-time electronic exchange of securities transactions. FIX is a public-domain specification owned and maintained by FIX Protocol, Ltd. FIX has become the de facto messaging standard for pre-trade and trade communication in the global equity markets, and is expanding into the post-trade space to support straight-through processing, as well as continuing to expand into foreign exchange, fixed income and derivatives markets.

Further information about the FIX Protocol messaging standard can be found here »


FpML (Financial products Markup Language) is the open source XML standard for electronic dealing and processing of OTC derivatives. It establishes the industry protocol for sharing information on, and dealing in, financial derivatives and structured products. The standard is developed under the auspices of ISDA, using the ISDA derivatives documentation as the basis. As a true open standard, the standards work is available to all at no cost and open to contribution from all. The standard evolution and development is overseen and managed by the FpML Standards committee, following W3C rules of operations guidelines.

Further information about the FpML XML standard can be found here »


SAP IDoc stands for intermediate document and is a standard data structure for electronic data interchange between application programs written for the popular SAP business system or between an SAP application and an external program. IDocs serve as the vehicle for data transfer in SAP’s Application Link Enabling (ALE) system.

Further information about SAP IDoc can be found here »
Further information about SAP IDoc document types can be found here »


The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) stands for the European Union (EU) payments integration initiative. SEPA is a set of harmonized payment schemes and frameworks for electronic euro zone payments. SEPA currently consists of the 28 EU Member States plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Monaco. SEPA established new standards for credit transfers and direct debits based on ISO XML 20022.

Further information about the SEPA Credit Transfer and Direct Debit Schemes can be found here »
Further information about the ISO 20022 payments message definitions can be found here »


SWIFTNet, Swift’s Internet protocol-based messaging platform, enables financial institutions and corporations to securely and reliably exchange financial messages and files using three primary messaging types:

  • Financial Messages:
    • FIN is a message transfer based store and forward system used by corporates for liquidity and risk management purposes. These messages are traditional SWIFT MT standards (e.g. MT101, MT940)
      Further information about SWIFT FIN Message types can be found here »
    • MX/ISO 20022 is a newer SWIFT message standard using an XML format based on ISO20022. ISO 20022 or Universal Financial Industry (UNIFI) message scheme is the ISO Standard for Financial Services Messaging. The ISO 20022 scheme includes five financial business domains: payments, securities, trade services, cards and foreign exchange.
      Further information about SWIFT MX/ISO 20022 Message types can be found here »
  • File Transfer:
    • FileAct: Transfer of files such as bulk low-value payment files, check image files, daily information reporting, image statements or other operational data MT/FIN.

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