Shares are uniquely different from most of the valuable assets you may possess. Because they aren’t a tangible item, they can be quite easy to lose track of. Unlike a house, a car or an heirloom (things that are easy to identify and locate), shares are a more abstract possession. You know they’re there…somewhere. But quite often shareholders aren’t exactly sure where their shares are. This is particularly common if the shares in question were obtained through inheritance, an employee share scheme or perhaps through demutualisation of an organisation owned by members.
But this can present as quite a problem if you’ve decided that you’d like to sell your shares. In order for a share sale to be processed, there are certain details about the shares that first need to be provided. Fortunately, shares that were once lost can be found again, and the process is pretty simple.
What Information About My Shares Do I Need to Find?
Shares that are purchased in Australia can be held in two different ways. Either they are broker sponsored shares or Issuer sponsored shares. If you have broker sponsored shares, then they will all be kept tidily together in a stockbroking account that is managed by the sponsoring broker. To go ahead with selling these shares you’ll just need the Holder Identification Number (HID) which can be found on any Dividend or Holding Statement.
However, if you have Issuer sponsored shares then the process can become a little more complex. Issuer sponsored shares are usually managed by a third party share registry, not by the company that first released them. This means that all administration and correspondence will be handled by the nominated share registry. Each parcel of shares will have its own unique Security Reference Number (SRN), which will begin with an ‘I’ and be about ten digits in length. Before you can sell a parcel of shares you will need to know that parcels unique SRN. If you own Issuer sponsored shares with multiple companies then you will have different SRN’s for each of them. The SRN should be listed on any correspondence that you’ve received from the company’s share registry.
What If I Can’t Find the SRN For My Shares?
If you can’t find any correspondence from the share registry then you will need to take further steps to track down your SRN. Your first option is to contact the relevant share registry directly – but if you’re not sure who the share registry is then you’ll need to go back a further step and find this out from the company that issued the shares. The share registry will charge a fee to carry out a search (usually around $55) and will then post a holding statement to you. This can be frustrating if the registered share address is no longer current (as they will only send to the registered address) or if you’re in a hurry to sell (since they will only send via post).
If you’re looking for a faster and more flexible option, then you’re better off approaching a broker who can conduct an electronic search for your missing SRN(s). Brokers who offer electronic searches can quickly and simply help you to identify any share parcels that are registered in your name, emailing the results to you as soon as they are obtained.
To ensure compliance with Australian regulations, a shareholder will need to meet specific identity requirements before an electronic search can be conducted. This will typically involve providing photo ID (such as a passport or driver’s license), as well as a credit card that has been issued in the name of the shareholder (or signatory). You will also need access to online banking for the relevant credit card account so that you can participate in a security check carried out by the broker.