« Back to Glossary Index

Welcome to the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) Glossary

Hey there! You’ve landed in the right place if you’re curious about how the investment world stays organized. Let’s dive into the Global Industry Classification Standard, or GICS, and discover why it’s such a big deal in finance and investing.

GICS was created in 1999 by MSCI and Standard & Poor’s, two finance industry giants. They wanted a standard and consistent way to classify companies across different sectors and industries. And boy, did they succeed! Today, GICS is used by investors, analysts, and companies worldwide to streamline their financial communications and analyses.

Why does GICS matter so much? Well, imagine comparing apples to oranges without any standard system—chaos, right? GICS provides a structured and universal language, ensuring everyone’s on the same page. This consistency allows for better portfolio diversification, precise market analysis, and strategic business planning. In essence, it’s the backbone of many investment and financial operations.

So, fasten your seatbelt as we journey through GICS, from its basic understanding to its intricate structures and real-world applications. Let’s get started!

Understanding GICS

What is GICS?

The Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) is a system that helps classify businesses based on their primary activities. It’s a joint creation by MSCI and Standard & Poor’s. Introduced in 1999, this structure made it easier to compare and analyze companies across the globe.

Before GICS, comparing companies was a bit tricky. Different systems classified companies in various ways, which led to confusion. MSCI and Standard & Poor’s wanted a more unified approach, so they teamed up to create this standard. They aimed to provide an efficient and consistent way to classify companies, making it easier for investors and analysts to understand market trends.

How GICS Works

The GICS classification process is like a big sorting game. It sorts companies into four main levels: Sectors, Industry Groups, Industries, and Sub-Industries.

First, we have sectors that are at the top level. There are 11 main sectors, like Energy, Healthcare, and Technology. Then comes the Industry Groups. Each sector breaks down into multiple industry groups. For example, Technology might split into Software and Hardware groups.

Now, within those Industry Groups, there are even more specific Industries. For instance, within the Software group, companies might focus on Application Software. Finally, the deepest level is Sub-Industries, which further refines the classifications. So, in our example, Application Software may include companies specifically dealing with game development software.

Let’s say you have a company like Apple. Under GICS, it’s classified as part of the information technology sector. Moving down, it’s in the Technology Hardware, Storage & Peripherals industry group, within the Technology Hardware, Storage & Peripherals industry, and finally, the Sub-Industry where it falls is Technology Hardware, Storage & Peripherals.

Importance of GICS

Consistent classification like GICS is super important. Imagine comparing apples to oranges – it wouldn’t make sense, right? With GICS, there’s a standard way to compare companies, making things easier for everyone involved.

It means investors can quickly see what kind of companies they’re investing in and ensure they’re diversifying their portfolios properly. Analysts love GICS, too. It helps them break down the market neatly and gives a clear picture of different segments. Even companies benefit from this system because they can benchmark themselves against competitors in the same classification.

Compared to older systems like SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) and NAICS (North American Industry Classification System), GICS offers more detail and consistency, making it a preferred choice for many in the financial world.

GICS Structure and Breakdown

Sector Level

The sector level is the topmost tier in the Global Industry Classification Standard, setting the stage for more granular classification. This level encompasses 11 main sectors that represent broad categories of business activities. Think of these as the grand umbrella categories under which all companies fall.

For example, you have sectors like Information Technology, Healthcare, and Consumer Discretionary. So, a tech giant like Apple would be placed in the Information Technology sector. These sectors serve as the starting point for understanding how diverse the market is and provide a big-picture view of where a company fits in the economic landscape.

Industry Group Level

Drilling down a bit, we reach the industry group level—the second tier. This is where things start to get interesting. Each sector is divided into industry groups that offer a more specific grouping of companies within that sector.

Let’s take the Information Technology sector, for example. You might have industry groups within this sector, such as Software & Services, Technology Hardware & Equipment, and Semiconductors & Semiconductor Equipment. These groups allow for a more detailed classification, giving investors and analysts better insights into what kinds of businesses are operating within a sector.

Industry and Sub-Industry Levels

Let’s dive deeper into the industry and sub-industry levels—third and fourth tiers, respectively. These levels provide the finest granularity in the classification system, making it easier to pinpoint exactly what type of business activity a company is involved in.

At the industry level, for instance, the Software and services industry group could be divided into industries such as Application Software and Systems Software. But we don’t stop there—the sub-industry level takes it further. You’d find sub-industries within the Application Software industry, like Enterprise Software and Home Entertainment Software.

Having these detailed categories helps investors make more informed decisions. For example, while Adobe and Electronic Arts might fall under the broader Information Technology sector, Adobe would be classified into the Enterprise Software sub-industry. In contrast, Electronic Arts would fit into Home Entertainment Software.

By breaking down companies in a structured way, GICS provides a robust framework that helps investors, analysts, and companies navigate the complex world of business and finance.

Application and Impact of GICS

Use in Investment Strategies

Investors leverage the Global Industry Classification Standard to diversify their portfolios. By understanding which sector a company belongs to, they can spread their investments across different industries, reducing risk. For instance, an investor might balance their holdings between the technology and healthcare sectors for a more robust portfolio.

GICS also plays a crucial role in index funds and ETFs. These investment products often track specific GICS-based indices, like the S&P 500, which groups companies according to their economic sectors. Therefore, knowing the GICS classification helps investors choose the right index funds or ETFs that align with their strategies.

Some popular investment products incorporating these classifications include the SPDR Sector ETFs and Vanguard’s sector ETFs. These funds provide targeted exposure to market segments, helping investors achieve specific investment goals.

Market Analysis and Research

GICS is a vital tool in market analysis. It helps analysts dissect the market into manageable pieces, making it easier to examine sectoral trends. For example, if a particular GICS sector shows consistent growth, analysts can dive deeper to understand its reasons and predict future movements.

Research based on the GICS classification assists analysts in conducting sectoral and macroeconomic research. It allows for a detailed comparison between companies within the same sector, identifying trends that might affect whole industries.

Case studies abound. Take, for instance, the technology sector’s rapid growth. Analysts can pinpoint broader technological advancements driving this expansion by examining companies classified under this sector, aiding in more informed investment decisions.

Corporate and Business Use

Companies use GICS in various strategic ways. It provides a framework for benchmarking to compare their performance against industry peers. A tech company, for instance, can assess how it stacks up against other firms within the same GICS sub-industry, identifying areas for improvement.

GICS helps businesses pinpoint their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses in competitive analysis. By understanding where competitors are positioned within the GICS framework, companies can craft strategies to gain a competitive edge.

GICS is also beneficial for internal reporting. Firms might structure their financial reports to reflect GICS classifications, making their data more accessible and understandable to investors and stakeholders who are familiar with the system.

Evolution and Updates

GICS isn’t static; it evolves to reflect changing industry landscapes and adapts to new economic realities. This means that the structure you see today might have been different a few years ago. For instance, with the rise of sectors like information technology, GICS has undergone updates to accommodate new industry categories.

Recent updates have included creating new sectors and reclassifying companies to fit the evolving marketplace better. This ensures that GICS remains relevant and provides accurate information for analysis and investment decisions.

Periodic reviews and reclassifications are key to maintaining this relevance. Organizations involved with GICS frequently evaluate the system, adjusting classifications to reflect economic shifts and emerging industries, ensuring it remains a valuable tool for investors and companies.


It would help if you had a solid grasp of GICS and its importance. It’s more than just a classification system – it’s a backbone of investment strategies and market analyses worldwide. Whether you’re an investor, analyst, or company executive, GICS provides a consistent framework that simplifies understanding and communication.

Key Takeaways

  • Consistency is Key: GICS offers a standardized way to classify companies, making comparing apples-to-apples in the market easier.
  • Investment Strategy: Utilize GICS to diversify your portfolio, ensuring you cover various sectors and reduce risk.
  • Insights and Analysis: Analysts rely on GICS for comprehensive market insights, which help them spot trends and make informed decisions.
  • Corporate Strategies: Businesses use GICS for benchmarking and strategic planning to stay competitive.

Tips for Using GICS

  1. Stay Updated: GICS is periodically reviewed and updated. Keep an eye on changes to ensure your strategies remain relevant.
  2. Dive Deep: Don’t just stop at the sector level. Explore industry groups, industries, and sub-industries for a granular view.
  3. Benchmark Regularly: Use GICS classifications to benchmark your portfolio or business against industry standards.
  4. Leverage Tools: Many financial tools and platforms incorporate GICS. Make the most of these resources for better investment and analysis.

Helpful Suggestions

  • Educational Resources: Many resources are online to deepen your understanding of GICS. Consider taking advantage of these.
  • Networking: Join investment clubs or online forums to discuss GICS and its applications with peers.
  • Professional Advice: Sometimes, it’s worth getting advice from a financial advisor, especially when implementing complex GICS strategies.

Understanding GICS can open up a world of opportunities in finance and investment. Keep exploring, and don’t hesitate to use this powerful tool to its full potential. Happy investing!

FAQ: Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) Glossary

What is GICS?

Q: What does GICS stand for?
A: GICS stands for the Global Industry Classification Standard. It’s a system used to categorize companies worldwide.

Q: Who developed GICS and why?
A: MSCI and Standard & Poor’s created GICS to standardize industry classification globally and provide a consistent framework for investors and analysts.

Q: When was GICS established?
A: GICS was established in 1999 to bring uniformity in industry classification.

How does GICS work?

Q: How are companies classified under GICS?
A: Companies are classified into four tiers within GICS: sectors, Industry Groups, Industries, and Sub-Industries. For example, a tech company might be classified as follows: Information Technology (Sector) > Software and services (Industry Group) > Software (Industry) > Application Software (Sub-Industry).

Q: What purpose do these tiers serve?
A: These tiers help in providing detailed and systematic categorization, which assists in better analysis and comparison.

What makes GICS important?

Q: Why is GICS classification essential?
A: Consistent classification helps investors, analysts, and companies make better decisions. It enhances transparency and comparability in the investment world.

Q: How does GICS compare to other classification systems like SIC or NAICS?
A: Unlike SIC or NAICS, which are often used for government and administrative purposes, GICS is primarily used for investment and market analysis, providing more detailed sector and industry data.

GICS Structure

Q: What are the main sectors in GICS?
A: There are 11 main sectors in GICS, including Information Technology, Healthcare, Financials, and Energy. Each sector contains companies that share similar business activities.

Q: What are industry groups, and how do they differ from other sectors?
A: Industry Groups are more detailed than sectors and help further divide sectors into more specific categories. For instance, you’ll find Industry Groups like Banks and Insurance within the financial sector.

Q: How deep does GICS classification go?
A: GICS goes as deep as Sub-Industries, offering the most granular classification level. This allows for very specific groupings of similar businesses.

Application and Impact of GICS

Q: How do investors use GICS in their strategies?
A: Investors use GICS for portfolio diversification, helping them spread their investments across various sectors and industries to manage risk.

Q: Can I find the GICS classification in index funds and ETFs?
A: Many index funds and ETFs structure their portfolios using GICS, making it easier for investors to target specific sectors or industries.

Q: How do market analysts benefit from GICS?
A: Analysts use GICS to conduct sectoral and macroeconomic research, providing detailed insights into market trends and company performance.

Q: Do companies use GICS too?
A: Absolutely. Companies use GICS for benchmarking against competitors, strategic planning, and internal reporting. It’s a critical tool for business analysis.

Evolution and Updates of GICS

Q: Does GICS change over time?
A: Yes, GICS adapts to industry changes. It undergoes periodic reviews and updates to remain relevant and reflect new industry developments.

Q: What’s new in the recent GICS updates?
A: Updates can include reclassifications or the creation of new sub-industries as markets evolve. Recent changes are detailed on the MSCI or Standard & Poor’s websites.

Have more questions? Feel free to reach out, and we’ll be happy to help!

We hope this glossary has given you a comprehensive understanding of the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) and its crucial role in finance and investment. For further reading and deeper dives into GICS, check out these helpful links and resources:

These resources will provide you with extensive knowledge and the latest updates regarding GICS. Whether you’re an investor, analyst, or company representative, these links are designed to enhance your understanding and application of this essential classification system. Happy learning!

« Back to Glossary Index
This entry was posted in . Bookmark the permalink.