Business identifier code

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Business identifier code, also known as the BIC, is a unique identification code for a particular institution or a part of it. It was originally called the bank identifier code.

BICs follow the standards set out in ISO 9362:2009, the 3rd edition issued by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

SWIFT, in its role of ISO Registration Authority, issues BICs to financial and non-financial institutions connected to the SWIFT network, as well as to non-connected institutions.

The BIC is used in financial transactions, exchange of messages between institutions, client and counterparty databases, compliance documents and many others.

BICs are 8 (BIC8) or 11 (BIC11) alphanumeric character strings and have no spaces in the strings.

BIC8s can be taken as referring to the principal office.

  • The first 4 characters are alphabetic and identify the institution and are often referred to as the institution code.
  • Characters 5-6 are two character alphabetic country codes from ISO 3166-1 to identify where the institution is located.
  • Characters 7-8, that may be alphabetic or numeric, make this more precise, identifying a region or a city for example. They are often called the location code.

BIC11s add 3 alphabetic characters to be more specific - a department or a physical branch for example and these three characters are often called the branch code.

As an example of how it works in practice, and taking a non-bank, Diageo plc's London HQ has BIC8: DIAGGB2L. Its Warwick branch, called "Reverse Billing", has DIAGGB2LCTB.

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