Exploring the History and Development of Legal Entity Identifiers

Legal Entity Identifiers

Legal Entity Identifiers (LEIs) are a unique identification system that allows financial institutions and regulators to track and monitor financial transactions. The concept of a unique identifier for legal entities has existed for decades. Still, it wasn’t until after the 2008 financial crisis that the need for a global identifier system became clear. However, with the help of reliable providers such as the LEI Register, LEIs have become a standard requirement for companies that engage in financial transactions.

Keep reading this piece to know the history and development of LEIs, from their inception to their current state!

Origins of Legal Entity Identifiers

The concept of a unique identifier for legal entities can be traced back to the 1960s when the first electronic financial systems were developed. These systems needed a way to identify legal entities and track financial transactions, which led to the development of proprietary identification systems. However, these systems were not standardised, leading to confusion and financial reporting errors.

In the 1990s, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) began developing a global identifier system for legal entities. The ISO 17442 standard, which outlines the requirements for LEIs, was published in 2012.

The Need for Global Standardisation

The 2008 financial crisis highlighted the need for a global identifier system for legal entities. The lack of a standardised identifier system made it difficult for regulators to track and monitor financial transactions, contributing to the crisis.

In response, the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Pittsburgh in 2009 called for creating a global identifier system for legal entities. The Financial Stability Board (FSB) was tasked with developing the LEI system, and a working group was established to oversee its development.

Benefits of Legal Entity Identifiers

Legal Entity Identifiers provide a range of benefits for financial institutions and regulators. One of the primary benefits is the ability to track and monitor financial transactions more effectively. By using a standardised identifier system, regulators can more easily identify the parties involved in financial transactions and monitor their activities.

It also helps to reduce the risk of errors and fraud in financial reporting. Using a unique identifier system gives less room for errors or fraudulent reporting, as each legal entity can be easily identified and tracked.

Utilising dependable providers like LEI Register can play a significant role in ensuring the accuracy and quality of data throughout the LEI registration process. This, in turn, is fundamental to the effectiveness of LEIs. Companies can rely on such providers to ensure the precision of the data associated with their identifier, which is indispensable for regulatory compliance and effective financial transactions. 

Challenges of Legal Entity Identifiers

While the benefits are clear, some challenges are associated with their implementation. One of the primary challenges is ensuring that the data associated with each LEI is accurate and up-to-date. If the information associated with an identifier is incorrect or out-of-date, it can lead to problems in financial reporting and monitoring.

Future of Legal Entity Identifiers

The future is bright as more financial institutions and regulators adopt the system. The GLEIF is continually working to improve the system, and there are plans to expand the use of LEIs beyond financial transactions. For example, LEIs could be used to identify legal entities in other industries, such as healthcare or government.


Legal Entity Identifiers have come a long way since their inception in the 1960s. Developing a global standard for identifying legal entities involved in financial transactions has been a collaborative effort between regulators, financial institutions, and industry groups. The benefits of LEIs are clear, including improved tracking and monitoring of financial transactions, reduced risk of errors and fraud, and streamlined regulatory reporting requirements.

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