Published: 12th June 2019
Many of the 2,600 public companies listed on the London Stock Exchange use registrars to keep a register of who owns their shares.
Registrars keep lists of all the registered owners and can trace ownership back, sometimes for many years.
They can provide valuable help for investors who have lost paper share certificates or have moved house, forgotten to inform the relevant organisations and want to reclaim past dividends. They ensure that dividends are paid to the right individuals and company information is sent out in a timely manner.
When an investor buys a share, using a nominee account, the share register shows the name of the nominee company, rather than the investor’s own name. This does not affect the investors’ legal rights to ownership and they are known as beneficial owners of shares, but the investor’s individual identity is often hidden from the public company.
There are three main registrars in the UK,
Link Asset Services (formerly Capita)
Estimates are around £3 billion is owed to UK investors from unclaimed shares and dividends.
Companies House regulations stipulate that shares may not be cancelled if a holder cannot be traced; shares belong to the registered holder or rightful heir. If authorised by its articles, however, a company may retain any dividends that remain unclaimed after a certain period, generally 12 years.
When executors or personal representatives are using Financial Asset Tracing services, it is important to check that the service provider does not just rely upon direct contact with leading public companies, as they will not necessarily hold the investor’s name. Equally, while a lot of investors have shareholdings among the FTSE 100 companies, many leading household names fall outside and need to be checked, not least for acquisitions, mergers and closures.