Skip to content
SuperMoney logo
SuperMoney logo

Industry Classification Benchmark: What It Is and How It Works

Last updated 03/15/2024 by

Silas Bamigbola

Edited by

Fact checked by

The Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB) categorizes public companies into subsectors within specific industries, aiding investors in understanding the market and identifying competitors. Managed by FTSE Russell, this globally recognized system classifies companies across four hierarchical tiers, enabling efficient investment strategies. While competing with the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS), the ICB finds extensive adoption in major stock exchanges worldwide.

Compare Investment Advisors

Compare the services, fees, and features of the leading investment advisors. Find the best firm for your portfolio.
Compare Investment Advisors

The importance of industry classification benchmark

The Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB) serves as a fundamental framework for investors, financial analysts, and market participants, providing a structured system to understand and analyze various sectors and industries. With its comprehensive categorization of public companies, the ICB enables a deeper comprehension of market trends, competitor analysis, and investment strategies.

Understanding the structure of ICB

The ICB operates on a hierarchical structure, classifying companies into four distinct tiers, namely industries, super-sectors, sectors, and subsectors. This systematic approach allows for a granular analysis of different businesses and provides valuable insights into specific industry dynamics. Understanding the layers within the ICB framework is crucial to deciphering the complexities of the global market and identifying key players within various sectors.

Key components of the industry classification benchmark

Within the ICB framework, several key components form the backbone of its comprehensive classification system. These include:
  • Industries: The broadest categorization, encompassing various sectors and businesses.
  • Super-sectors: A higher level of classification that groups related sectors together based on commonalities and market dynamics.
  • Sectors: Further subcategorization of super-sectors, providing insights into specific segments within broader industries.
  • Subsectors: The most granular classification level, offering detailed information on specific businesses and their market presence.

The significance of the ICB in market analysis

The ICB plays a critical role in facilitating market analysis and investment decisions, offering a standardized approach to categorizing companies and industries. Its widespread adoption across major stock exchanges globally underscores its importance in providing a common language for investors and analysts to assess various businesses and make informed decisions.

ICB and market research

One of the primary utilities of the ICB lies in its support for comprehensive market research. By enabling in-depth analysis of companies within specific subsectors and industries, the ICB empowers market researchers to identify emerging trends, competitive landscapes, and potential investment opportunities. This capability aids in making well-informed and data-driven decisions, leading to successful investment outcomes.

Impact on investment strategies

The structured classification provided by the ICB significantly influences investment strategies across various sectors. By offering a clear understanding of the industry landscape and the positioning of different companies within it, the ICB assists investors in devising effective strategies that align with their risk appetites, investment goals, and market expectations. It serves as a guiding tool for portfolio diversification and asset allocation, enabling investors to make prudent choices based on comprehensive industry insights.
Weigh the risks and benefits
Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.
  • Efficient categorization of industries and companies
  • Facilitates comprehensive market analysis
  • Aids in identifying investment opportunities
  • Standardizes industry language for global investors
  • Relies on accurate industry categorization for effective analysis
  • May require constant updates to accommodate evolving industries
  • Dependent on the accuracy and completeness of company data

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

Loading results ...

Impact of ICB on portfolio diversification

One of the significant implications of the Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB) lies in its influence on portfolio diversification strategies. By providing a comprehensive classification of companies within various industries and subsectors, the ICB aids investors in diversifying their portfolios effectively. Understanding the distribution of investments across different sectors and industries becomes more streamlined and data-driven, allowing investors to mitigate risks and maximize returns by balancing their portfolios based on the insights derived from the ICB’s categorization.

Example: Portfolio allocation based on ICB

Consider an asset manager aiming to construct a diversified investment portfolio for a client. By leveraging the insights provided by the ICB’s detailed classification of industries and subsectors, the asset manager can strategically allocate assets across different sectors, reducing the portfolio’s susceptibility to market fluctuations and industry-specific risks. The asset manager can use the ICB’s hierarchy to ensure an optimal balance of investments, considering the client’s risk tolerance, investment objectives, and market expectations. This approach not only minimizes the impact of market volatility but also enhances the overall performance of the portfolio, aligning it with the client’s financial goals and preferences.

Role of ICB in sector performance analysis

Examining the role of the Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB) in analyzing sector performance provides valuable insights into the dynamics of different industries and their impact on the overall market. By using the ICB as a framework for sector-based analysis, investors and analysts can assess the relative performance of various sectors over specific timeframes, identifying trends, patterns, and potential growth opportunities. Understanding the performance of sectors within the ICB’s classification system assists in making well-informed investment decisions and developing strategies that capitalize on the strengths and potential growth prospects of specific industries.


The Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB) stands as a crucial tool in the world of finance and investment, providing a standardized framework for categorizing companies into specific subsectors within various industries. Its hierarchical structure, managed by FTSE Russell, enables investors and analysts to gain comprehensive insights into market dynamics, identify investment opportunities, and make informed decisions based on granular industry analysis. Widely adopted by major stock exchanges globally, the ICB continues to play a significant role in facilitating effective market research, investment strategies, and industry benchmarking, ensuring a robust and standardized approach to understanding the complexities of the global market.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key differences between ICB and GICS?

The Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB) and the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) are two prominent classification systems used by stock exchanges globally. While both systems aim to categorize companies into specific sectors and subsectors, they may differ in their classification methodologies, hierarchical structures, and industry coverage. Understanding the nuances and distinctions between these two classification standards is essential for investors and analysts seeking to utilize these frameworks for market analysis and investment strategies.

How frequently is the ICB updated to reflect industry changes?

Given the dynamic nature of industries and evolving market trends, the Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB) requires regular updates to ensure its relevance and accuracy. FTSE Russell, the managing entity behind the ICB, typically implements updates and revisions to the classification system periodically, considering significant industry shifts, emerging sectors, and changes in company operations. This proactive approach enables market participants to access the most up-to-date and comprehensive industry classification data, supporting informed decision-making and market analysis.

Can the ICB be utilized for global market analysis beyond stock exchanges?

While the Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB) is widely recognized and adopted by major stock exchanges globally, its applicability extends beyond stock market analysis. The comprehensive classification system provided by the ICB can also be leveraged for broader market research, industry-specific studies, and global investment analysis. By offering a standardized framework for categorizing companies across various industries, the ICB serves as a valuable tool for researchers, economists, and policymakers seeking to gain insights into global market trends, industry performance, and economic indicators.

How does the ICB assist in identifying investment opportunities?

The Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB) plays a crucial role in assisting investors in identifying potential investment opportunities within specific industries and subsectors. By providing a systematic categorization of companies based on their primary sources of revenue, the ICB enables investors to conduct targeted industry analysis, evaluate market trends, and identify emerging sectors with growth potential. This detailed insight into various subsectors empowers investors to make informed decisions, diversify their portfolios, and capitalize on market opportunities that align with their investment objectives and risk preferences.

Does the ICB impact the valuation of companies within specific industries?

Given its role in categorizing companies into distinct subsectors within various industries, the Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB) may indirectly influence the valuation of companies operating within specific sectors. The ICB’s systematic classification provides investors and analysts with a standardized approach to understanding industry dynamics, assessing market trends, and comparing the performance of companies within the same subsector. This comprehensive industry analysis facilitated by the ICB’s classification system contributes to a more nuanced evaluation of company valuations, taking into account industry-specific factors and market dynamics.

How does the ICB contribute to effective risk management strategies?

The Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB) serves as a vital tool for effective risk management strategies by enabling investors to diversify their portfolios based on a granular understanding of industry-specific risks. By categorizing companies into specific subsectors within various industries, the ICB assists investors in balancing their investment portfolios, mitigating sector-specific risks, and minimizing exposure to market volatility. This comprehensive industry classification framework supports investors in implementing well-informed risk management strategies, optimizing portfolio performance, and maintaining a balanced investment approach tailored to their risk tolerance and financial objectives.

Key takeaways

  • The ICB plays a crucial role in categorizing public companies into distinct subsectors within various industries, aiding market analysis and investment strategies.
  • Its hierarchical structure facilitates comprehensive industry analysis and identification of investment opportunities.
  • The ICB is widely recognized and adopted by major stock exchanges globally, providing a standardized framework for market participants and investors.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

Loading results ...

You might also like