Transfer Agents: Gotta Have’em… Gotta Love’em
Sometimes it seems that the OPTIMIZER picks on transfer agents a lot – as lots of public companies seem to do too these days. Partly it’s because it’s such a tough business to run well in the best of times. But mainly, as TAs and corporate citizens well know, the slightest real or perceived miss-step tends to draw loud and rapid fire from the affected parties – and from “the top of the house” in public companies too, where – more often than not – the top execs are at the top of the “affected list.”
But there are a few very good things about the TA business that seem much worth noting:
First, and maybe best of all if you are in the TA business, every single public company has to have one…So as long as public companies are around, TAs will be too…like forever
Another thing about the TA biz – and something we sometimes miss – is that every day is different than the last:
There’s always something new… that’s really a challenge… and usually it’s some sort of emergency…that gets the old adrenalin flowing.
Another thing, we truly miss is the sense of closure you get every single day: You simply MUST make the mailing dates, and the turnaround times… no excuses accepted…But when you’re done, you know you’ve “wrapped the fish”…and you’re done for the day… and happy…and proud of it.
Best of all; if you’re really good at this business you will develop a lot of deep and long-lasting and very satisfying relationships with lots of interesting and high-power people.
Half or more of the CEOs we know, we know from their days as Assistant Treasurers or Assistant Secretaries, although to tell the entire truth, we came to know quite a few CEOs and Chairmen up close and personal when some major snafu arose…somewhere… in the error-prone and somewhat crazy shareholder- servicing universe. (And happily, we should also note, most of today’s TAs have overcome the once-daunting technological issues that used to create so many “moments” like those depicted in one of
our old covers, shown here.)
So smart issuers will really want to love their TAs – and to think about them as critically important, long-term partners. And smart TAs will want them to think that way too.
But every year, for as long as we can remember, a lot of public companies go shopping for a new TA. Sometimes it’s part of a corporate mandate to bid out most everything every five years or so. Sometimes it’s in response to the very keen competition for this business, and to the steady stream of nice salespeople who show up regularly at the door, full of enthusiasm and with ideas that seem fresh and new. Sometimes it’s because ones’ old TA has sold its business, so a look at the field seems in order. Most often, the search is sparked by some snafu, or maybe a series of them, since lightening does tend to strike in the same place.
We think we have a lot of very good advice for issuers who decide they need to shop their TA business around. Most of it has been on our website, www.optimizeronline for quite a while: Our article on what to do if you are not satisfied with your TA, for example, argues that for starters, trying to work things out with ones’ current TA is the best first-step, and provides a roadmap. But if this step fails to cut the mustard, go straight to our Top-Ten Tips on Selecting a Transfer Agent… under “The Basics”…where we think you will discover that there’s a lot more to making a smart decision that first meets the eye.
We are pleased to have so many Transfer Agents represented in this issue, and we think that their ads and articles DO give one at least a hint as to how different they actually are.
Our own very-top-tip for TA shoppers is to focus on “the chemistry”: On who’s in charge…and who will be in charge of your account…and on the “tone at the top” – in short, on the culture, style, and overall environment at each TA…and how it meshes with your own corporate style and culture – and, of course, with your own particular needs and corporate “hot buttons.” Make sure you DO love your Transfer Agent: It is kind of like a marriage: You want it to be a very long-term and loving relationship…quite aside from the very inconvenient fact that you need to get Board approval to divorce and remarry.