Speaker Interview: Clare Rowley

Clare Rowley, Head of Business Operations, GLEIF

The way we work has been revolutionised by technology. As part of this, the automation of many manual processes has led to considerable time and cost saving. However, despite these changes, many continue to use manual methods when it comes to legal entity identification.

The use of Legal Entity Identifiers (LEIs) as a common identifier to combat this issue has a wide range of business use cases that span multiple industries, business activities and functions. Clare Rowley, Head of Business Operations at the Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation (GLEIF), talks to us about why current entity verification methods are not enough, and how the solution to the problem – LEIs - can not only help firms meet regulatory requirements, but create business value in multiple sectors.

How do LEIs work?

The LEI is a 20-digit alpha-numeric code based on the ISO 17442 standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). It enables clear and unique identification of legal entities participating in financial transactions by connecting to key reference information. GLEIF makes available the Global LEI Index, which is the only global online source that provides open, standardized and high quality legal entity reference data. Each LEI contains information about an entity’s ownership structure and thus answers the questions of ‘who is who’ and ‘who owns whom’. As of February 2018, more than 1.1 million LEIs have been issued to legal entities globally. The LEI data pool – which is publicly available – is essentially a global directory that enhances transparency in the marketplace.

Why are current entity verification processes not fit for purpose?

Current processes have significant manual components and often require the use of multiple databases in which a counterparty may be identified by a different name. Many banks and corporations still use names rather than identifiers, resulting in confusion. As an example, a large bank’s client services division recently found that it had an average of five names—with minor variations in its database—for the same organization. Additionally, commonly used databases, different divisions and IT systems within organizations can all have varying versions of the same entity’s name, making it harder to trace and to link information from multiple sources. Another example of current inefficiencies is in know-your-customer (KYC) processes, where firms work to verify their clients’ identity by conducting robust due diligence. The lack of consistency and clarity within these processes means that banks spend considerable time and resources on what should be a simple task.

Beyond compliance and regulatory requirements, how can LEIs provide business value for companies?

Our recent white paper released with McKinsey & Company and titled ‘The Legal Entity Identifier: The Value of the Unique Counterparty ID’ identifies two broad areas in which the LEI has business value. Firstly, it reduces transactional and operational friction, both within and among organizations. Secondly, you can easily access important information about the background of a legal entity in a specific transaction. Together these benefits help organisations reduce the amount of time spent on identifying counterparties as well as improving information reliability.

How can LEIs create business value for the banking sector?

To give just one example: In capital markets, the LEI’s primary value is derived from reducing the cost of onboarding clients and middle- and back-office activities related to the processing of stocks, bonds and other securities trades. All such activities could be simplified and streamlined if LEI use was more broadly adopted throughout the lifecycle of the client relationship. The use of LEIs in the onboarding and trading phases of the client relationship would also reduce the time spent on data correction and reconciliation necessitated by inconsistent identification of legal entities. McKinsey estimates that the use of LEIs in capital markets could reduce annual trade processing and onboarding costs by 10 percent. This would lead to a 3.5 percent reduction in overall trade processing and capital markets onboarding costs, amounting to over US$150 million in annual savings for the global investment banking industry alone.

What message do you have for businesses thinking about getting an LEI in the future?

Introducing the LEI into almost any process with a manual component that requires counterparty identification and verification can result in more reliable information, efficient operations, significant cost savings and a reduction in the time it takes to onboard clients. I would actively encourage organisations to consider the adoption of LEIs in their day to day processes.

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