Like the old Abbott and Costello routine, [when Lou Costello is considering becoming a ballplayer and Bud Abbott wants to make sure he knows what he's getting into] there can be huge confusion and mishaps if there is ambiguity in the identity of who’s involved
in a transaction. For those that may not be familiar with this running gag, the (slightly abbreviated) routine goes as follows:
Abbott: Strange as it may seem, they give ball players nowadays very peculiar names.
Costello: Funny names?
Abbott: Nicknames. Now, on the St. Louis team we have, Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know is on third—
Costello: That's what I want to find out. I want you to tell me the names of the fellows on the St. Louis team.
Abbott: I said Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don't Knows on third.
Costello: You know the fellows' names?
Abbott: Yes. Costello: Well, then who's playing first?
Abbott: Yes. Costello: I mean the fellow's name on first base.
Abbott: Who! Costello: The fellow playin' first base for St. Louis.
Abbott: Who. Costello: The guy on first base.
Abbott: Who is on first. Costello: Well, what are you askin' me for?
Abbott: I'm not asking you--I'm telling you. Who is on first. Costello:
I'm asking you--who's on first?
Abbott: That's the man's name. Costello: That's who's name? Abbott: Yes
Costello: When you pay off the first baseman every month, who gets the money?
Abbott: Every dollar of it. And why not, the man's entitled to it.
Costello: Who is? Abbott: Yes.
Costello: So who gets it? Abbott: Why shouldn't he? …
Costello: Look, all I want to know is when you sign up the first baseman, how does he sign his name?
Costello: The guy. Abbott: Who.
Costello: How does he sign... Abbott: That's how he signs it.
Costello: Who? Abbott: Yes.
Costello: All I'm trying to find out is what's the guy's name, on first base!
Abbott: No. What is on second base.
Costello: I'm not asking you who's on second. Abbott: Who's on first.
Costello: One base at a time!
Costello: St. Louis has a good outfield? Abbott: Oh, absolutely.
Costello: The left fielder's name? Abbott: Why.
Costello: I don't know, I just thought I'd ask. Abbott: Well, I just thought I'd tell you.
Costello: Then tell me who's playing left field? Abbott: Who's playing first.
Costello: Stay out of the in-field! The left-fielder's name? Abbott:
Costello: Because. Abbott: Oh, he's centre-field.
Costello: Wait a minute. You got a pitcher on this team? Abbott:
Wouldn't this be a fine team without a pitcher? Costello: Tell me the pitcher's name.
Costello: Now, when the guy at bat bunts the ball--me being a good catcher--I want to throw the guy out at first base, so I pick up the ball and throw it to who?
Abbott: Now, that's the first thing you've said right.
Costello: I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT! Abbott: Don't get excited. Take it easy.
Costello: I throw the ball to first base, whoever it is grabs the ball, so the guy runs to second. Who
picks up the ball and throws it to what. What throws it to I don't know. I don't know throws it back to
tomorrow--a triple play. Abbott: Yeah, it could be.
Costello: Another guy gets up and it's a long ball to centre. Abbott:
Costello: Why? I don't know. And I don't care. Abbott: What was that?
Costello: I said, I DON'T CARE! Abbott: Oh, that's our shortstop
Now identity management is one of the holy grails of settlements. Legal Entity Identifiers (LEI) has already taken the focus of reporting but it holds so much more potential. T+2 and T2S are coming and it will be a prime requirement for the industry to have
a standard for identifying counterparties to the transaction. The ‘Who’s on first’ confusion must be rectified and LEIs are another piece of the industry jigsaw, leading to industry wide STP.
At the next Post Trade Forum we will be debating the impacts of T2S on the market and investors and how T+2 will influence a change in processes.
PS: For those of you that might want to see this sketch in full performed by Abbot and Costello
here’s the link to the footage on YouTube: