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Cusip: What is Cusip Number? Meaning, Example

The world of investing spans an enormous universe of tradable financial securities. Stocks, bonds, derivatives, mutual funds, commodities – millions of unique instruments get exchanged daily across global capital markets. Efficiently executing, settling, and regulating such vast volumes requires accurately identifying each asset first. This is where obscure alphanumeric codes like CUSIP come in – serving as “barcodes” for labelling securities. 

This article covers the CUSIP numbers, explaining what they represent, how they get assigned, their format structure, and embedded logic. We also showcase real-world examples and use cases across industries and discuss common alternatives like ISIN codes. Follow along to gain clarity around this niche yet mission-critical domain underpinning modern electronic finance.

Defining CUSIP – the acronym and significance

Firstly, CUSIP represents an alphabetic acronym for the Committee on Uniform Security Identification Procedures. Additionally, it constitutes a unique reference number assigned to classes of North American financial instruments like equities and debts at the time of issuance.

CUSIP digits assist with operational aspects of trading, clearing, and oversight by representing a consistent tool for participants across American and Canadian exchanges, depositories, and regulators to recognise and validate specific security issues against their digital/paperwork records.

Thus, much like a product barcode used in retail settings, CUSIP codes uniquely identify fungible financial assets, including stocks and bonds. This underpins efficient capital market operations.

The need for securities tagging

Trading financial assets first requires unambiguously distinguishing them from mirroring products that may share similarities in other aspects. Identically named companies can issue different stock classes on disparate exchanges. Bond series targeting the same entity can vary based on tenure, yields, and underlying risk. Even mutual funds from the same issuer house cater to distinct or overlapping investment objectives across portfolios.

Such common titling risks breed confusion and cascade into errors during trading, post-settlement processing, portfolio monitoring, and systemic regulatory disclosure if not preempted by embedding reliable security identifiers. 

CUSIP as North America’s Securities Labeling Code

Among predominant security numbering schemes, the 9-digit CUSIP system specifically tags issuances from entities based in the United States and Canada – acting as the regional identification benchmark. 

During the late 1960s, surging paper-based trading volumes in North America exacerbated already complex manual tracking across assets and ownerships. To unwind the impending chaos, the American Bankers Association (ABA) collaborated with major stock exchanges to standardise identification approaches. 

In 1968, they jointly developed the CUSIP system – an acronym for Committee on Uniform Security Identification Procedures. Oversight soon transitioned to ABA’s Standard and Poor’s (S&P) division, which currently governs the evolving protocol. Ever since its inception, CUSIP identifiers have been bundled into every class of newly issued security to act as unique instrument serial numbers.

What is the logic behind these numbers? Let’s decode them next.

Anatomy of a CUSIP identifier 

The CUSIP digits, though seemingly random, are actually structured using a base-10 numbering convention that imbues them with significant intelligence. This intelligence stems from the systematic organisation of data, which allows for greater accuracy and efficiency in financial transactions. 

The use of a standardised numbering system enables the unique identification of various financial instruments, including stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. As such, CUSIP digits play a fundamental role in financial markets, facilitating the smooth functioning of transactions and ensuring the integrity of investment portfolios. CUSIP digits embed intelligence using a base-10 numbering convention structured as follows: 



– X = 6-digit Issuer ID recognising the parent entity

– YZ = 2-digit Asset ID identifying instrument categories   

– C = Check Digit to confirm accurate transmissions

Issuer IDs serve as a unique identification system for banks and businesses. They aim to avoid confusion caused by naming duplication between entities that may share similar names, tickers, and exchange listings. For example, Apple Inc. and Apple Hospitality REIT have distinct CUSIPs despite sharing similar names. 

Asset identifiers are used to classify specific capital structures. For example: 

– 10 to 19 signifies Corporate Bonds  

– 20 to 29 are Municipal Bonds

– 30 to 39 stand for US Treasury issues

Therefore, large multiproduct issuers like banks can sponsor various bonds sharing their identifier prefix while embedding differentiation through 2-digit asset-type appendices denoting relevant traits.

Finally, a modulo 10 check digit against the initial 8 characters provides a key transmission accuracy safeguard.

Decoding Real CUSIP numbers via examples

Let’s examine real CUSIP specimens to reveal the methods within madness:

059692 – Wells Fargo Issuer Prefix   

100 – Marks Common Stocks Asset Class 

9 – Checksum Flag

So 05969 21001 tags Wells Fargo’s regular shares issuance.

In a similar vein:  

717081 – Belongs to Pharma Giant Pfizer

10 – Signals a Corporate Bond Unit

8 – Parity Integrity Flag

Makes 71708 1108 Pfizer’s company bond line.  

And 00759W – Boeing Identifier

689 – Denotes US Government Agency Debt

9 – Tail-End Confirmation Flag 

Thus, 00759 W6899 classifies bonds tied to Boeing but routed through state intermediaries.  

While largely numeric in the past, lately, CUSIPs also append alphanumeric suffixes like 487836 WM1 belonging to Japan’s Kirin Brewery – evidencing growing universality.

Searching and cross-checking CUSIP codes

Since CUSIP bundles with securities at inception, subsequent querying for specific issuer or instrument codes happens through:

– Financial statements detailing past trades. 

– Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board public online portals.

– Licensed data platforms like S&P Capital IQ, Bloomberg Terminals etc.

Users later cross-validate retrieved tags against supplemental sources – even recalculating inbuilt checksums to eliminate typos. Invalid speculative codes prompt clarification from originating agents.  

Now that we’ve clarified CUSIP construction, retrieval and authentication – what purpose do these codes serve?

The critical role of CUSIP in streamlining finance

By furnishing standardised securities blueprinting and labelling, CUSIP numbers unlock tremendous workflow efficiencies, including:

  • Pre-Trade Validation: Exchanges/dark pools verify orders against CUSIP directories pre-matching.  
  • Holdings Record-Keeping: Brokers, custodians, and registrars track portfolios referencing CUSIP-tagged instruments.
  • Clearing Reconciliation: CCPs configure risk engines recognising securities through CUSIP details during settlement.  
  • Regulatory Reporting: Monitoring agencies identify issuer exposures and transaction histories via CUSIP specifications.

Therefore, CUSIP numbering permeates critical system touchpoints, promising reduced errors and overheads.  

Now that we’ve elucidated CUSIP specifics, how does it hold up against other global standards like ISIN? We contrast next.

Contrasting CUSIP numbering with ISIN codes

While largely analogous in functionality, some key differentiators exist between North American CUSIP and wider International Securities Identification Number (ISIN) protocols:

  • Applicability: The CUSIP code is used for instruments in the US and Canada, while the ISIN code is used globally.   
  • Governing Agency: CUSIP falls under ABA/S&P custodianship. The International Standards Organisation (ISO) anchors global ISIN allocation through countrywide Numbering Agencies. 
  • Identifier Length: The CUSIP standardises securities identification numbers to a 9-digit format. On the other hand, the ISIN incorporates country, issuer, and asset tags along with verification codes within 12-character strings.

The use of alphanumeric identities is essential in organising financial instruments and promoting transparency. We can ensure meaningful and effective communication in the financial world by embedding invaluable intelligence within these identities.


CUSIP plays a crucial role in organising North America’s capital markets as it is a relatively unknown system, but it’s essential to the smooth functioning of the financial industry. By understanding the cryptographic structure of CUSIP, exploring real-world examples, querying reliable sources, and integrating the system into everyday operations, finance professionals can appreciate the importance of this seemingly complex domain.


What does the CUSIP actually stand for?

CUSIP stands for Committee on Uniform Security Identification Procedures. It’s the name of the special committee that originally established the CUSIP system for labelling financial securities. 

How are CUSIP numbers assigned to different securities? 

CUSIP numbers are assigned systematically, not randomly. The first 6 digits are unique ID codes for the issuing company or entity. The next 2 digits categorise the type of security. The last digit is a checksum number used to validate accurate transmissions of the code.

If two companies have very similar names, how does CUSIP differentiate them?

Even if company names are identical or very alike, their CUSIP issuer codes will still be completely distinct 6-digit ID numbers. This allows clarity between entities that might otherwise get mixed up in trading and record-keeping.  

What’s the difference between a CUSIP number and an ISIN code? 

CUSIP labels securities from the US and Canada, while ISIN codes are used globally across all countries. Both encode intelligence about the issuing entity and assets, but ISIN uses 12 digits to incorporate country data compared to the 9-digit CUSIP convention.   

How does the CUSIP system benefit average investors? 

By increasing transparency and accuracy around securities identification, CUSIP digits reduce operational risks and overheads – cost efficiencies that trickle down to end-investors through tighter spreads and fee reductions ultimately.

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