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Open LEIs: Making sense of the Global LEI System

Today, OpenCorporates announces a new sister website, Open LEIs, a user-friendly interface on the emerging Global Legal Entity Identifier System.

At this point many, possibly most, of you will be wondering: what on earth is the Global Legal Entity Identifier System? And that’s one of the reasons why we built Open LEIs.

The Global Legal Entity Identifier System (aka the LEI system, or GLEIS) is a G20/Financial Stability Board-driven initiative to solve the issues of identifiers in the financial markets. As we’ve explained in the past, there are a number of identifiers out there, nearly all of them proprietary, and all of them with quality issues (specifically not mapping one-to-one with legal entities). Sometimes just company names are used, which are particularly bad identifiers, as not only can they be represented in many ways, they frequently change, and are even reused between different entities.

This problem is particularly acute in the financial markets, meaning that regulators, banks, market participants often don’t know who they are dealing with, affecting everything from the ability to process trades automatically to performing credit calculations to understanding systematic risk.

The LEI system aims to solve this problem, by providing permanent, IP-free, unique identifiers for all entities participating in the financial markets (not just companies but also municipalities who issue bonds, for example, and mutual funds whose legal status is a little greyer than companies).

Part of OpenCorporates‘ mission has always been to surface and connect all publicly available information about companies to the companies (specifically the legal entities) to which to it refers. As part of that, we’ve been proud to be involved with the LEI system, since the beginning of last year, serving on the initial advisory panel, contributing at events, and most recently playing an active role on the Private Sector Preparatory Group.

Setting up something as significant and important as the LEI system is not trivial and it’s a testament to some of the individuals involved that it’s achieved so much in such a short space of time. Many people, even in financial markets, still haven’t heard of the LEI system, however, and it’s vital not just that the audience is increased, but that end-users  – financial markets, regulators, the wider society – start to use and provide feedback on the data and system.

However, this is not currently easy for users, as the system as a whole hasn’t been fully set up (the Foundation, which will run it, has yet to be founded, for example), even though LEIs are already being used in some markets (notably derivatives). Because of this, there’s an understandable lack of information about the system, and the data. In particular there’s nowhere to browse or search the data, and get a feel for what it’s really like, and where the problems are (though our friends at p-lei.org make a useful data dump of all the LEIs available).

This is where Open LEIs comes in: A browseable, searchable user-focused interface on the LEI system, with five key features.

First, it provides the ability to search the name of every entry, and it’s even smart enough to return those entries with slight mispellings (Mordan Stanley, for example):

Entities called Morgan Stanley in LEI system

You can also choose to search addresses, to find all those with, for example, with “rue Gabriel Lippmann” in them:

Search LEI system for addresses

Second, you can also browse the entire database of 100,000-plus LEIs, drilling down and filtering by country, legal form, or the registering body (the ‘Local Operating Unit’ or LOU in LEI parlance).

All LEIs/Legal Entities in the Global LEI System

This is incredibly powerful, and allows complex queries, particularly when combined with search, such as: Show me all the entities named ‘Goldman’ registered in the Cayman Islands with a legal form of ‘SOCIETE A RESPONSABILITE LIMITEE‘.

Third, there is an entry for every LEI, with a permanent URL for each (the URL is of course solely based on the LEI). This an entry for a Luxembourg company, for example:

LEI Record for 3M Asset Management S.à r.l.

Fourth, it links to OpenCorporates, where applicable, allowing you get additional data on the company. This is one of the areas where dealing with real-world data has exposed a number of data issues, from missing company numbers (in the above entry the business registry identifier is missing, though if you click through the OpenCorporates link it we show the right company) to incorrect or incomplete identifiers, missing jurisdictions, or inconsistent naming of company registers themselves. We’ll be reporting these problems back to the LEI system so that the issues can be resolved as the systems are firmed up (remember, it’s still a system being built).

Fifth, it provides all of this as data – XML and JSON – allowing easy access to the underlying data (note: we expect the underlying schemas to change as the LEI systems data model evolves – if you need a versioned API, please contact us).

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 22.52.55

Finally, we hope that the website will both act as a prototype for future work, including by the LEI system itself, and will allow end users to start using the data with a low entry barrier. If there are future features you’d like to see, or have comments on Open LEIs, please email us at lei@opencorporates.com.

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