Pay.UK is responsible for managing the rules and processes relating to sort codes, on behalf of the payments industry.
A sort code is an integral part of the information used to route and settle payments made through the cheque and electronic payments systems in the UK.
Sort codes are allocated to payment service providers (PSPs) offering accounts in the UK, subject to certain criteria. They may also be assigned to PSPs which need to issue GB International Bank Account Numbers (IBANs) for international payments, but have no need to offer payments to their customers through the UK’s payment systems.
While an IBAN uses a sort code in its structure, the sort code does not necessarily belong to a PSP which participates in UK payments systems.
A sort code must be registered with at least one of the UK cheque and electronic payment systems in order for it to be used in that payment system. Registration is via a secure central database containing details of all sort codes, and the PSPs to which they belong.
An extract of this database is known as the Extended Industry Sort Code Directory (EISCD). It is the central source of information used by all the payment systems and it is available to users of these systems, either as the EISCD, or through commercially available reference products from providers that are accredited under the Sort Code Validation Accreditation Scheme.
Who needs a sort code?
Sort codes are used to identify PSPs in order that they can allocate accounts that can make or receive payments.
PSPs that have a sort code will usually be:
- Settling payments directly through UK payment systems- to or from that sort code directly if they are a direct participant, through one or more of the payment systems through which the payment is being made
- Settling payments indirectly through UK payment systems- under an agency relationship with a direct participant (sponsor PSP) of one or more of the payment systems through which the payment is being made.
Direct participants will be allocated a sort code as part of the onboarding process, while PSPs becoming an indirect participant in a payment system will be allocated sort codes for that payment system by the direct participant which will be settling payments on their behalf. Find out more about sponsoring PSPs.
Pay.UK is responsible for managing the rules and processes relating to sort codes on behalf of the payments industry.
Governance is provided by the following group:
Clearing Codes Operational Group
The Clearing Codes Operational Group is open to the direct participants of the UK payment systems, together with a representative of Pay.UK and Vocalink, who also attend this group.
It is responsible for day-to-day operation, processes and rules relating to sort codes. The group also acts as the Project Implementation Group for projects relating to clearing codes and bank reference data as and when required.