I was looking at the BNP Paribas stock, with 2 different apps. One identifies it using a German identification number "WKN 887771" and Yahoo finance shows "BNP.PA". I initially thought that "BNP.PA" was an international identifier, but it's nowhere to be found in the German app. Is something wrong with this app or is there just no international identifier, other than the company name?

  • 2
    You might be looking for the ISIN. Aug 6, 2020 at 9:19

3 Answers 3


Stock tickers are a US identification.
Germany uses ISIN or WKN, although the latter is obsolete.

The rest of the world uses also whatever it likes, some (many) support and/or use ISIN, but in the day-to-day activity in their local stock exchanges, the often use what they always used - whatever the local method was.
There is unfortunately nothing comprehensive that is globally accepted; ISIN is trying to be that, but has some way to go still.

  • Stock tickers are not the US National Security Identification Number nor are tickers only used in the US.
    – kurtosis
    Aug 8, 2020 at 20:20

Stock Tickers

Stock tickers exist on most stock exchanges and are unique to an exchange or country. In the Americas, Oceania, and Europe, tickers are Roman characters like "IBM". In much of Asia, tickers are numbers like "6758" (Sony) in Japan; exceptions include the NSE in India and the Colombo Exchange in Sri Lanka which use Roman characters and the Tehran Stock Exchange and Singapore Exchange which uses Roman characters and numbers.

Sometimes tickers will have codes appended to signify different share classes, rights, warrants, or even problems with the stock company (like being late in filing reports or undergoing bankruptcy).

Market Data Codes

Market data is often looked up with a ticker. However, since tickers can clash between exchanges, the market data codes often include a country or exchange identifier as a suffix. Thus the "BNP.PA" about is for ticker BNP on the Paris Bourse. Note that sometimes, market data codes do not use the ticker.

National Security Identification Numbers

Tickers are not very helpful for identifying a security since the same ticker may identify different stocks in different countries. Therefore, many countries have other identifiers. Common examples include CUSIPs in the North America, SEDOLs in the UK and Ireland, Sicovams in France (no longer used), Valoren in Switzerland, and Wertpapierkennnummer (the "WKN" above) in Germany. These constitute National Security Identification Numbers (NSINs).

International Security Identification Numbers

However, even NSINs could clash between countries. Therefore, ISO 6166 specifies International Security Identification Numbers (ISINs) which are unique.

ISINs begin with a two-letter code for the economy: "CA" for Canada, and "GB" for Great Britain, but also "US" for the USA versus "PR" for Puerto Rico and "MO" and "HK" for Macao and Hong Kong versus "CN" for mainland China. There is one code used that is not an economy: a prefix of "XS" is used for securities which clear through pan-European systems like Euroclear and Clearstream (aka CEDEL before 2000).

After the two-letter economy/country code prefix, the ISIN has 10 numbers or letters. The first nine may be derived from an NSIN. The last is always a number and serves as a check digit calculated from the prior 11 characters using the Luhn algorithm.

ISINs are now preferred or are the only security identifiers used in some locals such as the EU. (Those exchanges, such as SIX, now use only ISINs and no longer use tickers.)


WKN is "Wertpapierkennnummer" (or simply Wert) a 6-character code that used to be used in Germany. It has been replaced by / embedded in the international ISIN: for German stocks, the 6th through 11th characters of the ISIN are the old WKN.

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