Accuity Marks Centennial as ABA Routing Number Registrar with Exhibit at Museum of American Finance in New York

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Original 1911 ABA Key to Routing Numbers directory will become the centerpiece of the “Banking in America” exhibit.

This 100-year-old directory is a valuable piece of American banking history, and we are honored to be able to share this archive with museums in New York and around the nation.

Hundreds of billions of dollars change hands every day and money moves from one bank to another by way of checks, debits, wire transfers or other payment mechanisms. Behind all the activity, the average person has little understanding as to the significance of the nine-digit routing number that appears on the bottom of each check.

2011 marks the centennial anniversary of the publication of the first American Bankers Association Key to Routing Numbers, and even though technology and transportation have dramatically transformed over the last 100 years, the routing number system put in place by the banking industry is still in use today. In celebration of the centennial, Accuity, the Official Routing Number Registrar, along with the American Bankers Association and the Museum of American Finance in New York will exhibit the original, published version of the routing number directory.

Before the routing number system was established, banks offered their own stamps on checks and other payment documents, and no uniformity of numbers existed. This was a source of complication and confusion. Liquidating one’s assets and transferring funds meant physically traveling with currency or gold, which often times led to robbery. The routing number system was created by the American Bankers Association as a mechanism for identifying each financial institution in the United States. Under the system, each bank was assigned a unique routing number, the first of which was assigned in 1911 to The Bank of New York. Today, there are over 24,000 active routing numbers in use in the United States. The company now known as Accuity has served as the Official Registrar of Routing Numbers for the American Bankers Association since 1911. In addition to the assignment of routing numbers to qualified institutions, Accuity also publishes the semi-annual ABA Key to Routing Numbers directory.

“The ABA has represented the United States banking industry for over 130 years. The formation of the routing number system has had a profound, positive effect on the ability of the banking system to service its customers. The publication of The ABA Key to Routing Numbers directory has been an integral tool for the payments system in the U.S. We are proud of the ABA’s accomplishment in not only developing the Routing Number system, but also in publishing a directory so key to the payment system,” ABA President and CEO Frank Keating said. “We have enjoyed our partnership with Accuity as the Official Routing Number Registrar and publisher of the ABA Key to Routing Numbers directory and look forward to continuing that partnership.”

“This 100-year-old directory is a valuable piece of American banking history, and we are honored to be able to share this archive with museums in New York and around the nation,” Hugh Jones, president and CEO of Accuity, said. “It is amazing to see how the introduction of the routing number system revolutionized the banking industry in the United States. But what’s more amazing is that, aside from new payment methodologies and the speed of payment processing, little has changed with the need for the routing number itself. A well-planned and well-managed system persists.”

“The movement of funds through the financial system by U.S.-based banks and financial institutions like BNY Mellon is made possible by the ABA Routing Number,” said Karen Peetz, the company’s Chief Executive Officer of Financial Markets and Treasury Services. “As the holder of the very first routing number ever issued, we are proud to stand with Accuity and the ABA - 100 years later - and honor the system and directory that started it all.”

The exhibit at the Museum of American Finance will feature the directory in its original form in the “Banking in America” section of the museum beginning on March 1. Following the unveiling of the exhibit, there will be a cocktail and media reception at the museum. Attendees will include members of the ABA, Accuity, The Bank of New York Mellon, and others in the financial community.

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Carolyn Harrison
Lippert/Heilshorn & Associates, Inc.
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