May 10, 2011 – The call went out on May 3, from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. That equates to the second day of its 38th Operations Conference, held in Boca Raton, Fla., this year.

SIFMA and a coalition of capital markets trade associations here and abroad set out what it considered a comprehensive set of requirements for establishing a legal entity identifier (LEI) system to aid regulators and industry in monitoring systemic risk.

This, of course, is to launch a system – worldwide – that can identify any financial entity by a universal code. And reduce systemic risk, by making it easier to track transactions, counterparties, corporate actions – and give regulators an ability to spot stresses as they or before they develop.

One instrument. One ID. One universal code. As discussed here on April 18.

This is not a small task. The SIFMA initiative amounts to a “request for proposals” for any interested party. And it is backed by a who’s who of associations on both sides of the Atlantic:

The British Bankers Association, Customer Data Management Group (CDMG), The Clearing House Association, Enterprise Data Management Council, The Financial Services Roundtable, the Futures Industry Association (FIA), the Global Financial Markets Association (representing the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME), the Asia Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association (ASIFMA) as well as the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) in the U.S., the Global Regulatory Identifier Steering Group (GRIS), the Investment Company Institute (ICI), and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA).

The requirements document can be found here.

The system that results, of course, is designed to help the Office of Financial Research, just coming into being, to monitor systemic risks. This request for proposals, in fact, is designed to winnow alternatives into a cohesive set of recommendations that can be presented to the OFR, by the end of June, according to Tom Price, managing director, and Randy Snook, executive vice president of SIFMA.

But the OFR is not alone in trying to come up with one set of identifiers.

Last week, for instance, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications was endorsed by the International Standardization Organization to create and distribute global legal entity identifiers.

SWIFT was selected as the registration authority for LEIs over the Association of National Numbering Agencies, the only other contender for the job.

SWIFT won a majority share of the votes from a 29-member ISO technical committee, SWIFT officials confirmed on Thursday.

SWIFT and ANNA, a trade group representing national numbering agencies, were among dozens of respondents to a proposal issued by the U.S. Office of Financial Research for a firm to create and distribute global legal entity identifiers for financial firms and other companies.

The ANNA had proposed a “federated” model in which each country’s numbering agency would be responsible for issuing an LEI for a firm incorporated in that country. A Standard & Poor’s venture, CUSIP Global Services, is arguing for its CUSIP Avox Business Reference Entity (CABRE) system. Dun & Bradstreet’s had its own proprietary code. SWIFT is working with the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. to meet the OFR’s requirements. And then there is GS1, which has decades of experience helping industries launch universal identification systems, ranging back to the ‘70s introduction of bar codes to the grocery and retailing industries.

Proposals are due to the coaliton of trade associations by May 30, at LEIresponse@sifma.org.

Now is the time to make your voice heard.

The sooner there is a universal identification system, the better.

And, remember, this is not just about the United States. It’s about the world. If the system is not global, it will be useless.

This column originally appeared on Securities Technology Monitor.

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