Countdown to new options symbols

Schwab plans to implement the first phase of the option symbol change-over the 23rd of January.   I’m assuming their software has already been updated and they just need to flip some switch for our client software to start supporting the new format.    This will take some getting used to.

A good friend like a SPY January 114 call  symbol:  SPYAJ, will become:

  • Within Schwab’s systems: “SPY 01/16/2010 114.00 C”       (<symbol> <MM/DD/YYYY> <whole dollar strike>.<2 digit decimal> <C or P>)
  • Generic, industry standard format: “SPY 100116C00114000”     (<symbol> <YYMMDD>  <C or P><5 digit whole dollar strike><3 digit decimal>).

Schwab’s approach is reasonable enough, but I really hate their date symbol choice–it is a very USA centric approach.   To me day-month-year is a much more reasonable format.   I use day, 3 letter month, year notation (e.g., 16-Jan-2010) when I write dates–knowing that I will be understood the world over.

The generic symbol is awkward enough (I think year, month, day is non-intuitive, and who wants to deal with 8 digit strike prices?), that I suspect all major brokers will create their internal easier to use symbols.   Of course they will all be different.

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