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What is ISIN?

ISIN definition

ISIN stands for International Securities Identification Number this is an alphanumeric code with 12 characters that can be issued for shares, bonds, options, derivatives and futures.

For example, Apple’s ISIN is US0378331005.

The ISIN code is the only universally recognised securities identification number.

Where have you heard about issues?

Standard & Poor's, an American financial services company, is licensed to issue ISINs. In 2009 they were formally charged with unfair pricing by the European Commission after charging licensing fees to European financial firms.

What you need to know about issues...

ISIN numbers act like serial numbers. They're governed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) but individually issued by the National Numbering Agency (NNA) that operates in the country where the security is issued. For instance, in the UK ISIN numbers are issued by London Stock Exchange PLC.

The structure of ISINs is expressed through ISO 6166:

  • two alphabetic characters – representing the issuing company
  • nine alphanumeric characters – the National Securities Identifying Number
  • one numerical check digit

ISINs were first established in 1981 but weren’t widely accepted until recommended by the G30 countries in 1989. They were later endorsed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and the ISO 6166 standard adopted.

If countries already had national numbering schemes, these were incorporated in the ISIN. In 2004 the European Union included ISIN as an authorised instrument identifier when they made this mandatory part of some regulatory reports.

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