Written by Ugodre Obi-Chukwu - Nigeria
As an investor in shares it is very likely that you may have come across incidences of unpaid dividends either due to the dividend warrants getting expired or the dividend warrants never even getting to you at all. Recently, I embarked on a mission to get back some of my unclaimed dividends from yesteryears as well as ensure I never again miss out on my return on investments, otherwise called dividends. Here is a step by step guide of how I did it.
Get a list of all your shares: The first thing I did was to visit my stockbroker requesting for an updated list of all the stocks that I own in the Central Securities Clearing System. You can actually get this printed online yourself if you register with the CSCS. I also took a list of all the share certificates I have just to be sure my entire portfolio is accounted for.
Obtain a list of the respective registrar's for the stocks you own: Every company listed on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange has a unique registrar that manages their outstanding shares on their behalf. The registrars are mandated to manage all shareholder issues such as dividends, public offers, share certificates, bonus issues etc. on behalf of companies. Therefore if you are to get back your dividends you will have to know who your registrars are.
Sign a share transfer form: The stockbroker will give you a share transfer form for each of the shares you own. The form basically mandates the stockbroker to act as your agent, thus giving them the powers to process your unpaid dividends with your respective registrars.
This service typically requires a token fee depending on the stockbroker. The fees can be a flat amount or percentage of the dividends you are expecting. These all depends on the value of your dividends. The alternative will be for you to approach the registrars one by one by yourself just to get your unpaid dividends sorted out. This can be time consuming if you do not have the luxury of time for this. However, it does save you some fees which you would have paid to your stockbroker. This process can last within a month or more depending on the efficiency of the registrar and the commitment of your stockbroker. You will also need to follow them up very often to ensure that you get your dividends on time.
Processing e-dividends: I also used the same opportunity to process my e-dividends registration. E-dividend registration is basically a solution to the incidences of unpaid dividends. By registering for e-dividends, your registrars simply credits your bank account whenever dividend is paid out by any of your companies. This process completely avoids the more common paper dividends and has the added benefits of ensuring that you never lose your dividends and that they get paid to you on time. Considering that I still received a number of paper dividends I informed my stockbroker that I wanted to switch to e-dividends. I was then given a set of e-dividend forms of the respective registrars for each of the companies I owned shares in following which I filled the forms.
A typical e-dividend form will contain the name of the bank which you intend your dividend to be paid into, the address of the bank, Nuban bank account number, sort code, the name and address of the shareholder, name of stockbroker, email address, company seal (if it is a registered company) etc. Registrars typically have various formats but contain basically the same information.
Visit your bank: After filling and signing the forms, you will have to take a copy to the banks as well for them to sign. Without the bank's signature on your forms the e-dividend form may not fly. I found this quite rigorous as well as I hate to visit banks and prefer to transact online. However, considering the sensitivity of e-dividends, it is understandable that they make the process a lot more thorough. You can prefer to use one bank only for your e-dividends if you do not like the stress of having to visit multiple banks and going through the same process all over again. Another advantage one bank gives you is that it makes dividend monitoring very easy as you only have to check one bank statement when it's time to reconcile your dividends.
Back to the stockbroker or registrar: Once you are done with signing the e-dividend forms take it to your stockbroker, if you had mandated them to process your e-dividend on your behalf. Remember, you may have to give them a power of attorney to do that. Otherwise, you take the forms to the respective registrars yourself for them to complete the final leg of the registration. Again, the timeline for this depends on the registrar and how efficient they are in processing e-dividends.
You should also use this opportunity to follow up with your stockbroker or registrar about your past dividends which I had mentioned earlier. Remember, e-dividends will only be paid for subsequent dividends and not the ones that had already being paid but not credited to you.