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Chris Pickles Takes a Leading Role in Bloomberg’s FIGI Campaign

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Bloomberg is continuing its campaign to make the Financial Instrument Global Identifier (FIGI), formerly the Bloomberg Global Identifier (BBGID), the world’s primary security identifier with plans to push the FIGI through the ISO standardisation process and showcase organisations benefitting from the use of the identifier. The campaign is being led by Chris Pickles, former head of industry initiatives, global banking and financial markets, at BT, and now a member of the Bloomberg LP open symbology team with a focus on the FIGI.

The FIGI is a non-proprietary, free to use and distribute security identifier that became an industry standard in September 2014 when members of the Object Management Group voted unanimously in its favour. Moving on, Pickles says: “We are now looking at what is involved in the ISO standards process as the FIGI is a standard the industry would like to work with. It is already being used by buy-side and sell-side firms, and data vendors such as SIX Financial Information are starting to include the FIGI in their data feeds. Ultimately, the FIGI could replace other existing identifiers.”

Pickles suggests that if the industry was built on de facto identifier standards, then the FIGI would be just such a standard. Making the case for the FIGI based on the number of identifiers that have been issued, he says 209 million FIGIs have been issued and that this number is growing at about 5% a month. In comparison, about 10 million International Securities Identification Numbers (ISINs) have been issued.

While the ISIN was recently been extended beyond its typical use in the equity and bond sectors to cover derivatives and structured products, Pickles says: “The FIGI is the only open and free identifier that covers all asset classes. Its scope is not only wider than that of identifiers such as ISINs, Sedols and Cusips in terms of asset classes, but also in terms of geographies as it covers all global venues.”

On this basis, he cites the FIGI as a means of improving operational efficiency and more easily meeting regulatory requirements. The FIGI is also the best identifier to use when managing large volumes of data and its inclusion of a check digit provides accurate information on what has traded on what execution venue. Similarly, the FIGI doe not die and cannot be changed or reused, avoiding confusion that can be caused by identifiers that can be changed or reused.

Pickles acknowledges some scepticism in the market about the FIGI, particularly around its provenance, and mixed opinions among data vendors, but says: “The FIGI is a public good, free to all, non-proprietary identifier that is separate form the commercial operations of Bloomberg.” On the issue of financial institutions’ reluctance to change, he concludes: “We are building the solution and hope that people will come. Many medium to large firms already use Bloomberg data and some are beginning to rationalise, moving away from numerous identifiers and using the FIGI as an open, standard key to their reference data.”

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