Global ID System Set To Arrive In Waves
Traders Magazine Online News, November 18, 2011
A new system giving financial institutions standardized Legal Entity Identifiers (LEIs) will start to be phased in next year after an international organization finalizes new standards in January.
The Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is expected to approve a plan for LEIs at the beginning of next year, calling for them to consist of 20 alphanumeric characters. After that happens, the infrastructure is already in place to start issuing the IDs early in 2012, according to officials with the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.
"Assuming the standard is approved by early January, our expectations are that legal entities will be able to register in short order for an LEI," said Tom Price, managing director and head of SIFMA's technology, operations and business continuity planning group.
During the financial crisis, both regulators and institutions realized they did not have the information available to quickly address issues of counterparty risk. LEIs aim to change that by using a universal code that would allow counterparties to be easily identified.
The United States has provided much of the leadership behind the push for LEIs, but the concept enjoys broad support around the globe. The registering authority for LEIs will not come from any government, but rather from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT).
After the ISO finalizes the standard, the next step will be rule writing, which is already underway at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission with respect to swaps. Price said LEIs will be used first for swaps participants and then gradually adopted for transactions involving other types of assets until they are required for all trades.
David Strongin, who is also a managing director at SIFMA, said the U.S. will be the first country to require LEIs, but Hong Kong and Canada will likely follow fairly quickly. The European Union has committed to adopting LEIs as well, though it is unclear whether Europe will adopt the system all at once or phase it in country by country.
Strongin stressed, however, that there is a global consensus to move forward, even if not every nation and region mandates LEIs at the same time.
"The G20, both the finance ministers and leaders, have all endorsed this," Strongin said. "From a very high level, you don't see disagreement that an LEI is needed. I think everyone agrees that it's an important tool to build the foundation for risk management."
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