International Securities Identification Number (ISIN)
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The ISIN Number Code is used in nearly 100 countries to identify both equity and debt securities issues, derivatives, syndicated loans and equity options, as well as stocks, bonds, treasuries, commercial paper, medium terms notes, warrants, rights, trusts, futures, options and more.
The ultimate goal of international identification codes referred to as “ISIN” (International Securities Identification Number) is to standardize the identification of securities and other financial instruments via a unified system and a uniform classification.
Said another way, ISIN numbers are allocated to securities, much like a social security number for a person, in order to clearly show or state what the securities details are, and to assist in the clearing and settlement procedures between potential buyer and seller.
ISINs – as opposed to the 9 digit CUSIP numbers – are composed of a 12 digit alphanumeric number code. The ISINs are also a solid tool in the unification for varying ticker symbols (think “APPL” for Apple, Inc.). Ticker symbols can vary from exchange to exchange, which only causes confusion, especially when currency is taken into consideration. Thus, a ticker symbol for a US security traded on the NASDAQ may be different on Stock Exchanges. Therefore, an ISIN number can actually ‘unify’ all ticker symbols of the securities, enabling those searching for the securities to see an all-inclusive picture of the securities being searched.
For the United States, ISIN codes are extended versions of the 9-character CUSIP (Committee on Uniform Security Identification Procedures) numbers. ISIN numbers are formed by adding a country code and what is called a “check digit” to the beginning of the CUSIP, and end of a CUSIP numbers. There are some advantages to having an ISIN or CUSIP number code.
ISIN Code Structure
There are several key components to an ISIN Number Code as exemplified by the following ISIN code sample: US123456789 (or the three parts as US-12345678-9). The ISIN code can be explained as follows:
At one time, International Securities Identification Numbers, or ISINs, were considered a secondary form of security identification – as opposed to ticker symbols which were not primary. In the early years of the ISIN introduction, ISIN number codes were mainly used for clearing and settlement. However, in the last decade numerous European nations have adopted the ISIN code formula as their primary security identifier, surpassing even ticker symbols as primary use. ISIN numbers are also employed in North America, as they are built upon CUSIP numbers (click here to read more about “CUSIP” numbers). As the years move on and as more securities are constantly being issued worldwide, many countries, aside from the nearly 100 that already utilize ISIN numbers, most countries seem open to adopting ISIN’s as their primary security identifies, or at the very least, as a secondary adoption. In regions or countries that do not have a “NNA”, three neighboring individual NNAs work together to administer ISINs.
Why Should All Adopt ISIN Codes?
The main reason for worldwide adoption of the use of ISIN numbers is to create a clear and transparent method for clearing and settlement via a global straight-through processing or “GSTP”. The GSTP essentially seeks to clear and settle transactions only electronically, without having to rely on any manual or human interaction. ISIN numbers are employed by share custodians to track holdings of institutional investors in a format which is consistent across markets worldwide. In the future, it is assumed that the entire planets clearing and treading platforms will rely solely on ISIN number codes as the sole means of securities identification.
History of ISIN Number Codes
International Securities Identification Numbers were first employed in 1981. At that point it had not reached wide global acceptance until 1989, when the G30 countries recommended ISIN adoption. In 1990, the Association of National Numbering Agencies, or “ANNA”, was formed and endorsed by the International Organization for Standardization, or “ISO”. The Global ISIN Access Mechanism was developed in 1994 to facilitate the electronic exchange of ISIN information across the different National Number Agencies “NNA” and today shares wide popularity throughout the world.