There are thousands of companies listed on the Indian stock exchanges and there are scores of major exchanges around the world. If we consider only the major exchanges, shares of lakhs of companies would be listed on them. In a globalised world, individuals often trade and invest across borders. Many companies are also listed on multiple international exchanges. When there are millions of shares and bonds in the world, it becomes important to have an identification system in place to avoid confusion.

The first level of identification is the stock symbol, but two companies can have the same symbol on different exchanges. The problem of having a unique identification is solved by assigning a CUSIP number.

What is the CUSIP number?

The CUSIP number is a unique set of numbers assigned to all stocks and bonds in the United States and Canada. It is also assigned to municipal bonds and less traditional options like preferred stocks, syndicated loans and certificates of deposit. The CUSIP number creates a distinction between all publicly traded securities in the two North American countries. Besides providing a unique identity, the CUSIP number also serves another purpose. The CUSIP number has been designed to work seamlessly with computerised record-keeping systems. CUSIP is an acronym for Committee on Uniform Securities Identification Procedures and it is owned by the American Bankers Association along with Standards & Poors. Investors can use the CUSIP number to track and trace any security, while the exchanges use it for clearance and settlement.

Understanding CUSIP number

The CUSIP number is of nine characters, which generally consists entirely of numbers but can also be alphanumeric. CUSIP number functions just like the serial number of the products in a supermarket. It is the serial number for securities. To understand CUSIP meaning, let us break the formation of the CUSIP number. The first six characters of the CUSIP number identify the issuer of the security and is known as CUSIP-6. The seventh and eighth digits are a marker of the type of the security and the ninth character is the check digit, which gets generated automatically. The nine-digits of the CUSIP number are essential for the efficient clearance and settlement of all trades. The CUSIP number of all securities is recorded to ensure fool-proof tracking of trades.

Finding the CUSIP number

CUSIP numbers are publicly available through the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board. The financial statements related to the purchase or disposal of securities too contain the CUSIP number. Some CUSIP number examples are Apple 037833100, Microsoft 594918104 and Amazon Inc 023135106. The CUSIP number is only used in the US and Canada, but financial markets across the world work on the same principles and hence all securities need a distinct identification number. The International Securities Identification Number or ISIN is an alphanumeric code that is used to identify securities across the globe.

ISIN vs CUSIP

Both ISIN and CUSIP are codes used for the identification of securities. The structure and the applicability of the code differentiate the two. While the CUSIN number is used only in the US and Canada, ISIN is used to identify securities and facilitate their buying and selling across the world. The CUSIP numbering system is owned by the American Bankers Association and managed by Standard & Poors, while the ISIN system is operated by the International Organisation for Standardization.

The CUSIP number is a nine-digit code, while the ISIN consists of 12 characters. The first two letters of ISIN are the country code, which is followed by nine alphanumeric characters, known as the national security identifier. The 11 characters are followed by a check digit. For example, the country code of India is ‘IN’. The country code is issued by the ISO, while the national security identifier is provided by the National Numbering Agency of each country.

Conclusion

The CUSIP number is essential for the seamless trade of financial securities. Without a unique identification code for each security, the financial markets may not be able to function efficiently. While the CUSIP is used in North America, the ISIN is used in India. Having the ISIN is necessary for a host of financial activities.