International Securities Identification Number (ISIN) Overview

The ISIN standard is used worldwide to identify specific securities such as bonds, stocks (common and preferred), futures, warrant, rights, trusts, commercial paper and options. ISINs are assigned to securities to facilitate unambiguous clearing and settlement procedures.


The international securities identification number (ISIN) is a 12-digit alpha-numeric  code that is used to uniquely identify a security’s issue.


They  act to unify different ticker symbols “which can vary by exchange and currency” for the same security.


An ISIN is never reused. An ISIN will change due to certain types of corporate actions, such as a Name Change.


In South Africa, an ISIN is issued with an Alpha Code.

ISIN Code Structure

There are several key components to an ISIN, as exemplified by the following ISIN example: ZA123456789 (or the three parts as ZA-12345678-9).


The ISIN code can be explained as follows:


§     ZA for South Africa

§     US for the United States of America

§     ME for Mexico

§     etc.


Difference between an ISIN and a Ticker

Securities with which ISINs can be used include debt securities, such as notes or bonds as well as shares, such as common stock or shares of a fund, options, derivatives and futures.


The ISIN identifies a security. It should not be confused with a ticker, which identifies the stock at the Exchange level. For instance, IBM stock trades through almost 25 trading platforms and Exchanges worldwide. IBM stock has different tickers depending on where it is traded, but has only a single ISIN for each security. The ISIN acts as identifier for the securities and as such is the only common denominator securities identification number that is universally recognised.