Sort code

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A sort code is the name given by both the British and Irish banking industry to the bank codes which are used to route money transfers between banks within their respective countries via their respective clearance organisations. In Ireland it is known as the NSC or National Sort Code[1] and is regulated by IPSO (Irish Payment Services Organisation).[2] Although sort codes in both countries have the same format, they are regulated by different authorities as each country has its own banking system.[3][4]

Banks in Northern Ireland can be part of either the British or the Irish clearing system, depending on their country of registration.[5] Also, sort codes for Northern Ireland branches of banks registered in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, are valid, and recognised for use in the Republic.[2] The numbering ranges for both are complementary, but do not overlap.

The sort code, which is a six-digit number, is usually formatted as three pairs of numbers, for example 12-34-56. It identifies both the bank and the branch where the account is held. In some cases, the first digit of the sort code identifies the bank itself and in other cases the first 2 digits identify the bank.[1] Although there is a strong correlation between BIC Codes and sort codes, sort codes are not explicitly encoded into BIC codes (although they are encoded into IBANs).

History[edit]

Six-digit sort codes were introduced in a staggered process during the 1960s as the banking industry moved towards automation. Prior to this and to facilitate the manual processing of cheques branches were allocated a 'national code' which would comprise anything between three and five digits. These took the following form:

The bank itself was allocated a main number alphabetically; Lloyds Bank for example was allocated 3, National Provincial was allocated 5, Martins was allocated 11.

Main clearing branches (usually elite London branches) would bear only one digit after the main number, e.g. 111. Metropolitan branches (which covered Greater London) consisted of two digits after the main number, e.g. 1124. Country branches made up the rest of the country, and bear three digits after the main number, e.g. 11056.[6] They were displayed on cheques in this fashion, with the bank identifier taking precedence.

To facilitate the move to a six-digit-structure the national codes were retained but where a single-digit was used to identify the bank a two-digit range was introduced, e.g. Barclays branches went from 2 to 20, Midland from 4 to 40, etc.

List of sort codes of the United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom the initial digits of bank sort codes are allocated to settlement members of the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company and the Belfast Bankers' Clearing Committee. These numbers are six digits long, formatted into three pairs which are separated by hyphens.

The following list shows the first two digits of the sort codes allocated to clearing banks. Thus, in the example 01-10-01, 01 indicates that the bank is a branch of the National Westminster Bank; the other sets of digits are for internal use. This example represents the NatWest branch in Spring Gardens, Manchester. Clearing banks can act for other banks, so looking up a bank by sort code in this list does not always mean the account is actually handled by that bank, e.g. the sort code 08-32-00 HMRC VAT is not a Co-operative Bank account but a Citibank account, as is 08-32-10 for National Insurance.

Cheque and Credit Clearing Company[edit]

The clearing system in Great Britain is managed by the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company, under the umbrella of the Association for Payment Clearing Services.

London clearings[edit]

In 1991 the Committee of London and Scottish Bankers, formerly the Committee of London Clearing Bankers, was wound up and its work absorbed with that of the British Bankers' Association. In the following list the dates in parenthesis signify the year of merger with the present-day sort code holder, or subsidiary thereof.

Range Bank Note
01 National Westminster Bank formerly District Bank (1962)
05 Clydesdale Bank trading as Yorkshire Bank
07-00 to 07-49 Nationwide Building Society
08 The Co-operative Bank
08-60 to 08-61 clearing accounts for building societies, Northern Rock etc.
08-90 to 08-99
08-31 to 08-32 Citibank International for UK Government use (NS&I, HMRC etc.)
09-00 to 09-19 Santander UK formerly Abbey National (2010)
09-01-31 to 09-01-36  for Alliance & Leicester
09-01-39 to 09-01-49  migrated accounts
09-01-51 to 09-01-56
10-00 to 10-79 Bank of England previously used for Government accounts
11 Bank of Scotland for Halifax (1990 - date)
12-00 to 12-69 12-60-00 to 12-69-99 for Sainsbury's Bank
13 Barclays Bank
14
15 The Royal Bank of Scotland formerly Williams & Glyn's Bank (1985),
itself formerly Glyn, Mills & Co. (1970)
15-80 to 15-80 for Child & Co private bank,
part of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group (1923)
15-98 to 15-99 for C. Hoare & Co.
Independent private bank
16 formerly Williams & Glyn's Bank (1985),
itself formerly Williams Deacon's Bank (1970)
16-00-38 for Drummonds Bank, private bank,
part of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group
16-57-10 for Cater Allen Private Bank, part of Santander Group
17 formerly Williams & Glyn's Bank (1985),
itself formerly The National Bank (1970)
18 for Coutts & Co.
a subsidiary of National Westminster Bank (1920)
20 to 29 Barclays Bank 23-05-80 for Metro Bank
30 to 39 Lloyds Bank and TSB formerly Lloyds TSB (2013)
formerly Lloyds Bank (1995)
30-00-66 for Arbuthnot Latham, private bank
40 to 49 HSBC Bank formerly Midland Bank (1992)

49-99-79 to 49-99-99 for Deutsche Bank
40-12-50 to 40-12-55 for M&S Bank
40-60-80 for CashFlows

50 to 59 National Westminster Bank formerly National Provincial Bank (1968)
60 to 66 formerly Westminster Bank (1968)
72* Santander UK formerly Alliance & Leicester (2010),
itself formerly Girobank (1985)
77-00 to 77-44 Lloyds Bank and TSB formerly Lloyds TSB (2013)
formerly Trustee Savings Bank (1995)
77-46 to 77-99

*being phased out

Scottish clearings[edit]

Separately operated by the Committee of Scottish Clearing Bankers until 1985.

Range Bank Note
80 to 81 Bank of Scotland
82 Clydesdale Bank
83 The Royal Bank of Scotland formerly National Commercial Bank of Scotland (1969),
formerly Commercial Bank of Scotland (1959)
84 formerly National Commercial Bank of Scotland (1969),
formerly National Bank of Scotland (1959)
86
87 TSB formerly Lloyds TSB Scotland (2013)
formerly TSB Scotland (1995)
89-00 to 89-29 Santander UK formerly Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank (2010)
formerly Girobank (2003)

Belfast Bankers' Clearing Company[edit]

The clearing system in Northern Ireland is operated under the Belfast Clearing Rules which are agreed by the Belfast Bankers’ Clearing Company Ltd. (formerly the Northern Ireland Bankers’ Association).

Range Bank Note
90 Bank of Ireland
91 Danske Bank formerly Belfast Banking Company (1970)
formerly Northern Bank (2012)
93 Allied Irish Banks (UK) for First Trust Bank
formerly TSB Northern Ireland (1991)
94 Bank of Ireland
95 Danske Bank formerly Northern Bank (2012)
former Midland Bank subsidiary (1965)
98 Ulster Bank subsidiary of National Westminster Bank (1917)

Sort codes of the Republic of Ireland[edit]

The sort code ranges in use in the Republic of Ireland are broadly similar to those used in Northern Ireland. Exceptions include:

Sort codes in the 70 range - "walks"[edit]

When the six-digit sort code system was set-up in the 1960s, numbers in the 70 range were reserved for the large number of London offices of banks which were not members of the London Clearing. Individual sort codes within the range 70-00-00 to 70-99-99 were allocated on a one-off basis to the many London offices of private and foreign banks. Cheques drawn on these banks were colloquially known within the banking industry as "walks" because they were cleared by being hand-delivered ("walked") to the drawee banks by messengers from the Clearing House.[7] By the 1990s, all these banks had been issued with sort codes within the ranges of the various clearing banks which, henceforth, acted as clearing agents for them. The practice of "walking" cheques was ended and use of the 70 code range was discontinued.

International clearance[edit]

The British and Irish sort codes are only used for domestic money transfers. If money is being transferred across international borders, an international network is used. Many European countries use the IBAN as a means of identifying bank account numbers, but transfers to, amongst others, the United States and Australia make use of the BIC Codes. Characters 9 to 14 of British and Irish IBANs hold the bank account sort code.[8]

In some countries there is no direct equivalent of sort codes as the bank and branch codes are maintained separately from each other in those countries.[8] Other countries, however, have codes which are equivalent to sort codes, but with formats unique to the country concerned. Examples include:

The codes listed above for Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Sweden are incorporated into the IBANs for those countries.

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • UK Clearings Directory 2005 (p. 297) The Association for Payment Clearing Services

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Sort Code Information for Republic of Ireland". Irish Payment Services Organisation Ltd. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 
  2. ^ a b "About IPSO". Irish Payment Services Organisation Limited. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 
  3. ^ Cheque and Credit Clearing Company
  4. ^ "Home Page". Irish Payment Services Organisation Limited. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 
  5. ^ "International Bank Account Number (IBAN) - IBAN online check". UN/CEFACT United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business - TBG International Trade & Business Processes Group - Working Group 5 Finance Domain. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  6. ^ http://www.martinsbank.co.uk
  7. ^ A Monetary History of the UK 1870 - 1982, Capie & Webber, published by Routledge 2005, ISBN 04 15381150 pp 289-290
  8. ^ a b "IBAN registry - This registry provides detailed information about all ISO 13616-compliant national IBAN formats - Release 31, November 2011". SWIFT. Retrieved 2011-11-08.