Options Symbology Initiative

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The Options Symbology Initiative is an undertaking by an industry consortium headed by the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC). The consortium collaborated to address limitations in the traditional method of identifying U.S. listed options contracts during back-office processing. This is typically a three to five alpha-character representation; the first three characters are used to identify the option's listing symbol and the remaining two alpha-characters are used to identify the expiration month, call/put indicator and strike price. This method has been used for more than 25 years.

The new plan replaces the five-character symbols with a 21-character descriptor that explains the underlying option. The new identification format comprises four key components: the underlying symbol, the expiration date, the strike price and the option type (call or put). [1]

It intends to match options symbols with the underlying security symbol, in order to reduce corporate action symbol conversions, eliminate the need for wrap symbols and the LEAPS rollover process, reducing errors in back-office processes while providing more flexibility in new product development.[2]

In November, the Options Clearing Corporation completed the second round of testing for the Options Symbology Initiative and said the industry was on track with preparations for the changes coming in February 2010. The date set for industry compliance was February 12, 2010. [3]

On Feb. 17, 2010, the OCC announced that the February 12 conversion for the Options Symbology Initiative had been successfully accomplished and that firms, clearing members, exchanges and the OCC were all using the new OSI key. Before the conversion, all the OCC's clearing members certified they had completed the scripted industry testing that took place from Sept. 2009 through Jan. 2010.[4]

All affected market participants, including exchanges, clearing members, vendors, and the clearinghouse, are required to adhere to the OSI changes.[5]

In December 2010, OCC won the "Best Innovation by a Clearing House - Americas" Award for 2010 from FOW Magazine for its efforts in the Options Symbology Initiative.[6]


Symbology Initiative Overview at the OCC web site: www.theocc.com/initiatives


  1. Options Symbology Deadline Looms. Wall Street & Technology.
  2. Symbology Initiative. NYSE Euronext.
  3. The Options Clearing Corporation Announces November Test Results Show Increasing OSI Readiness. OCC.
  4. OCC Announces Successful Symbology Conversion. OCC.
  5. Options FAQ: Symbology. OIC.
  6. OCC Timeline. OCC.