Some people inherit shares, some people receive them as an employee bonus or are given them by a well-meaning family member or friend. Initially, they’re pretty happy to receive them. But most people don’t know much about shares. After a while, they lose track of them, perhaps moving to a new address and forgetting to notify the share registry.
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Picture this: Your parents give you a brand new Ferrari for your 18th birthday. You’re pretty excited at first, but in all honesty, you don’t know that much about cars. You know it’s worth a bit of money, but you’re not sure how much. Then, you park the Ferrari in a public garage and can’t remember which one, or even what suburb it was in.
After a while, you sort of forget about it. When the subject comes up, you remember that you received the Ferrari. You just can’t quite remember what color it was, what model it was, and most importantly, where exactly it was that you left it. However, you assume the car will always be there and you can track it down later if you decide you want to drive it again in the future.
This sounds completely ludicrous, doesn’t it? Who in their right mind would forget that they owned a valuable asset like a new Ferrari?! Yet, a different version of this scenario plays out across Australia with alarming frequency when it comes to owning shares.
As a result, it is now estimated that over 150,000 Australian small investors have overlooked shares worth $451 million! Here is how to find those shares.
Your Share Security Reference Number
If you think you may be one of the 150,000 who has forgotten shares out there, then there’s good news. You can find your shares again! The process of how to find lost shares will differ slightly depending on how much information you can recall. The key detail you’re searching for is the Security Reference Number or SRN. You cannot trade your shares without this ten or eleven-digit number which will always begin with the letter ‘I’.
A Share Registry
If you know that you were a shareholder of a particular company, then you may be able to contact that company directly to obtain your SRI number/s. Alternatively, the company may redirect you to its share registry. The registry is responsible for sending you correspondence relating to your shares. The 3 main share registries in Australia are Boardroom Ltd, Link Market Services and Computershare.
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Most share registries will charge a fee of approximately $55 to look up the details for you and send the relevant documentation out to the address that they have on file. This can make things difficult if you’ve moved and haven’t updated your registered address. In this case, it may be easier to contact an online broker service for information regarding how to find lost shares.
Online Broker Service
An online broker carries out an electronic SRN search on your behalf. Once the shares are found, they email the necessary paperwork to you (thereby eliminating the issue of the out-of-date address). The turnaround time for an electronic SRN search is usually 1 business day, meaning that an electronic search is often the fastest and easiest way to find lost shares. Even if you’re not sure which address the shares would be registered to, an experienced online broker should still be able to track them down for you.
You will have to comply with several identification steps before an SRN search can be completed on your behalf. This is to ensure compliance with regulations against money laundering. Still, your online broker will be able to talk you through this process. Good luck!