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How do you get to be a National Numbering Agency?

You know those times when you’re walking along, paying no attention whatsoever to what’s going on around you (staring into the Blackberry, arguing on the phone) – and then you stop, look up, and wonder how in heaven you got to where you are?

Wandering through a discussion with a friend from Germany, the question came up as to who should allocate unique national identifiers to businesses. Have you ever wondered how you get to be a National Numbering Agency (NNA)?

There doesn’t seem to be any rule about what you have to be in order to qualify.  For example, in the UK the NNA for securities is the London Stock Exchange (an exchange), in Switzerland it’s Telekurs (a technology-based services provider owned by the local banks), in Canada it’s the national CSD, in the USA it’s Standard & Poors (a data vendor).

Is there an “invitation to tender” process, and if so, who runs it?  Is it open to bids?  What are the qualifications?  Is the selection process public?  Could I do it at the weekends?

After all, any organisation that has the monopoly on numbering things in a country has a pretty valuable monopoly. 

If you’re the national numbering authority for one category of assets, eg equities, do you automatically get to be the national numbering authority for all categories of assets? That might seem a bit odd if the local stock exchange, rather than the local derivatives exchange, is responsible for identifying and numbering derivatives.  Once you’re an NNA for one thing, do you automatically get given the role of national numbering agency for other things as well, eg uniquely identifying business entities?  Again, that might seem a bit odd, as many countries already have other authorities that are responsible for licensing businesses.

And who decides?

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