Staying connected with fund shareholders | 5 must-haves for staying in touch

HiResLose track of a financial account? While most people believe that they’d never do that, fund transfer agents know that it happens all time — often because a shareholder has moved or passed away.

Transfer agents work hard to keep shareholders connected with their money — because if they lose touch, shareholder’s property may need to be turned over to state governments as unclaimed property in a process that industry pros call escheatment.

But staying connected with millions of investors is no easy task, as representatives from Georgeson, Prudential and UPRR explained, speaking on a panel at NICSA’s General Membership Meeting, held in Boston on September 11-12.

They explained that a successful program for keeping shareholder property from becoming lost must have 5 components:

  • Ability to identify and track customer contact. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But logging every touch point can be a challenge when customers can contact the organization in multiple ways. They might phone in to a call center or maybe just log onto the website. All of these systems must be configured to capture date of last contact and the nature of that contact — and to produce records that will satisfy the state auditors if they ever come to call.
  • Integration of surround systems. All of the surround systems used by the transfer agent should be integrated to build a repository of contact information. For instance, the proxy voting system or the interactive voice response system could well be nexus between a fund and an otherwise-missing shareholder.
  • Implement an outreach plan. This plan should use escalating methods to reach out to shareholders, maybe starting with direct mail, moving on to a calling campaign and even using overnight mail for some accounts. Accounts targeted should be those at highest risk of escheatment based on state law.
  • Patience and persistence. While some shareholders will respond immediately, others will be harder to connect with. Be prepared to try and try again.
  • Awareness of the importance of the outreach. Escheatment can cause not just financial losses for asset managers — in the form of reduced assets under management and potential fines and penalties if the process isn’t handled correctly — but it can also lead to a loss of reputation. Most shareholders won’t be happy to have their accounts turned over to the state, so staying connected is essential.

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