About the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI)
A Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) is a unique alphanumeric 20-character code that is used to identify legal entities across the globe. The code is based on the ISO 17442 standard which is developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). LEI codes help businesses and regulators identify parties that are participating in financial transactions, with the aim of enhancing transparency in the global marketplace.
Each LEI code contains reference data that is divided into two sections: Level 1 - who is who, and Level 2 - who owns whom. All LEI codes are published to the Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation's (GLEIF) database and the data is publicly available and accessible to everyone, regardless of possessing an LEI code themselves.
The purpose of introducing the Global LEI System (GLEIS) is to standardise the identification of legal entities across the globe. Currently, many different systems and methods for identification exist in various countries and markets. The ultimate goal of GLEIS is to ensure that there is only one standard system.
What is GLEIF?
The Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation (GLEIF) is a not-for-profit organisation that was created to support and implement the use of LEI codes. It was founded in June 2014 and its main duties involve overseeing implementations and registrations of LEI numbers, as well as driving transparency across the global financial marketplace. They host the main LEI database that contains all of the LEI codes and information related to them. The GLEIF is backed and overseen by the LEI Regulatory Oversight Committee and is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland.
What is Level 1 and Level 2 data?
The ISO 17442 standard defines a set of attributes, or legal entity reference data, that are the most essential elements of identification. The minimum reference data that must be supplied for each LEI code is referred to as Level 1 data.
According to GLEIF, Level 1 data is used to answer the question 'who is who'. The data includes the official name of the legal entity as recorded in business registries, the country of formation, the registered legal and headquarters addresses, as well as the date of the initial LEI assignment, the date of the last update of the LEI data and the date of expiry, if applicable.
Level 2 data, however, is used to answer the question 'who owns whom'. The collection of Level 2 data started in 2017 and firms were required to provide details about their direct and ultimate owners. Reporting Level 2 data aims to identify the entities parental relationships among corporate structures. Mere ownership, however, does not meet the Level 2 reporting criteria - only entities whose parent or ultimate parent own more than 50% and consolidates the financial results of the daughter entity have the ability to report Level 2 data.
Why are LEIs needed?
The global LEI system was established as a means to better regulate, monitor and analyse threats to financial stability. This was mainly in response to the financial crisis in 2008, after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The global LEI system offers better transparency when dealing with large financial transactions, especially if the transactions include entities from multiple countries. There are currently several systems that mimic the purpose of an LEI, however this global system hopes to consolidate all the information into a single database that accounts for all the legal entities in the world.
Today, companies use LEI codes to help identify legal entities across the world. If a company is unsure about engaging in a financial transaction with another company, they can use the LEI database to improve transparency and better understand where their partner is from, who their parent companies are, and ultimately minimise risks and increase safety.
Who needs an LEI?
Generally, an LEI code is required for any legal entity that takes part in financial transactions or wishes to trade in financial markets (buying stocks, bonds or other securities). There are many regulations (depending on the jurisdiction) where the use of LEIs is either required or strongly advised.
As a general rule of thumb, here are the most common entities that would require an LEI:
- Any registered company or a subsidiary of another company
- Government bureaus
- Financial intermediaries
- International banks
- Investment companies
- Branch offices
- Hedge funds and mutual funds
- Any entity listed on a stock exchange
- Commodity traders
- Nonprofit organisations
- Nongovernmental organisations
- Registered sole proprietors
It is worth to mention that private individuals cannot obtain an LEI code. Only individuals acting in a business capacity can request an LEI. More information can be found here: Individuals Acting in a Business Capacity
The purpose of the LEI code is to enhance transparency when engaging in financial transactions and reporting tasks. The use of LEIs is mandatory under a number of European Union's regulations and directives and as of January 3rd 2018, all legal entities that wish to transact in European financial markets involving any kind of securities or derivatives (for example Stocks, Bonds; ETFs, FX Forwards, Swaps, Interest rate Swaps etc.) need to register for an LEI.
While an LEI is mandatory for trading, it is not required to have it just to keep securities, although it is highly recommended. Not possessing an LEI code can come as an unpleasant surprise when faced with a transaction.
How much does an LEI cost?
The cost of applying for a LEI is down to the issuer’s discretion. As such, different service providers can offer the LEI registration and renewal at different prices. LEI Lookup offers a low cost LEI registration fee, starting from 50€ per year.
The cost of a new LEI code includes the mandatory GLEIF fee, initial application cost and the annual renewal fee for the chosen period.
The cost of renewing an existing LEI code includes the GLEIF fee and the annual renewal for the chosen period. The transfer of the LEI code, if applicable, is free of charge.
One-year LEI registrations
The most typical choice for legal entities is to register for one year. After applying for an LEI, the number will be issued and can be provided to other legal entities when engaging in financial transactions. Alternatively, partners and financial institutions will be able to search for the company name to find the LEI code and the information associated with it.
The price for a one-year LEI registration is 69€ with LEI Lookup.
Multi-year LEI registrations
LEI Lookup also offers multi-year registrations for Legal Entity Identifiers. This means lower prices per year for subsequent renewals, offering savings, if the LEI code is needed for a longer period of time. For multiple years, please check the price list for more details.
What happens when an LEI number expires?
If the LEI is not renewed after one year, the LEI's status will change to Lapsed. In this situation, it is not possible to participate in any financial transactions that require an LEI code. However, the information will retained in the database, but it might be outdated and it is not possible to update it until the LEI code is renewed.
After renewing the LEI, the status will change from Lapsed back to Issued. Any service provider can be chosen to renew the LEI number - it does not have to be the same provider who issued the LEI. Changing LEI service providers is common, as prices and service quality vary.
Renewing an LEI
LEIs need to be renewed once every year, in order to guarantee data accuracy. During the renewal, the entity data is reviewed and updated, if necessary. The renewal must be applied for, just like the initial registration. Fortunately this process is fairly simple, as the company data is already available in the Global LEI database. Typically the renewals with the same service provider take just a couple of hours.
LEI Lookup also offers multi-year registrations and renewals. With this service, the renewal process is automatically taken care of by LEI Lookup and the customer does not need to take any action.
What is the GLEIF fee?
GLEIF charges a license fee for every LEI code. The fee is currently 11 USD per 1 year application. GLEIF uses this fee to cover costs related to the system and ensures that it can stay open and free to use for everyone. Our prices already include the GLEIF fee.
Obtaining an LEI code
An LEI is obtained from service providers known as a Local Operating Units (LOUs) or from LEI Registration Agents, such as ourselves. Companies like us act as an intermediary between the customers and LOU's. This means that any new registrations or submitted changes typically go through us. We then communicate with the LOU's, who issue and renew the LEI codes and publish them to the GLEIF database. As a service provider, that helps legal entities register for an LEI, our goal is to make the process as smooth and seamless as possible.
How long does it take to apply for an LEI?
Once an application has been submitted with all of the right information, typically the LEI can be issued in a few hours.
Searching for an LEI number
One of the benefits of having a freely accessible global LEI system is that anyone can search for legal entities that are registered in the database. To do this, our LEI search tool can be used.
Using the LEI Search feature
The LEI search feature is extremely easy to use and is functional even if the exact LEI code for another legal entity is not known. For example, a partial LEI code can be entered, and the search feature will automatically suggest potential results. Alternatively, the legal entity's name can be entered. This also has an automatic suggestion function that makes it simple to find the correct entities.
However, it is usually best to have the full LEI number as multiple companies can be registered with the same or similar names. This can sometimes make it difficult to differentiate between different entities. It is possible to use the 'Country' filter to narrow down the results to the correct jurisdiction.
Information shown on an LEI entry
The LEI data is divided into two parts - Level 1 data - Who is who? and Level 2 data - Who owns whom?
Level 1 data includes the entity's legal name, jurisdiction, registered ID, legal and headquarters addresses. Additionally, the Level 1 data includes the details of the registration - the initial date of registration, the date of the next renewal and the managing LOU (Local Operating Unit). Most importantly, the status of the LEI code is outlined as well. In order to make use of the LEI code, the status needs to be Issued.
Level 2 data includes information about the entity's parental structure - direct and ultimate parent and direct and ultimate child entities (if any). A separate tab that displays a log of changes made to the LEI entry can also be found, which can be useful for examining amendments to the entity information.
LEI Lookup has an LEI search tool that is free for anyone to use.