When companies are listing on the stock exchange, they can choose an organisation to provide their share registry services. This share registry will manage shareholder details for the company and all the administration that comes along with it.
This is important as every company in Australia and New Zealand, big or small, is required to maintain individual company records, including their share or member register. If Australian companies have not met their share register obligations, then the local regulator ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission), can charge large fees, and they may deregister a company if it has outstanding fees.
An organisation providing the share registry services will manage the share register for the company, which includes details such as:
Member name and addresses
Share transactions including the number of shares and the dates on which entries on the register are made
Share class or classes
Whether the shares are beneficially held
A share registry service can also manage the payment of dividends out to investors, the distribution of company updates and annual reports, and shareholder voting. One important note is that share registry companies do not decide whether to pay dividends or the method of paying dividends- these decisions are made by the individual companies!
From an investor perspective, the share registry will manage activities such as transferring shares, updating personal information, sending out dividend statements, or providing a mechanism for members to vote on a company resolution.
In Australia, share registry companies often request specific and extensive information from members before acting on any investor requests, and often there are statutory requirements to collect and verify this information.
It makes sense for publicly listed companies with thousands of shareholders to use a share registry service to maintain their share register and manage other administration. However, for smaller organisations and private companies these services are often not a good fit or they are cost-prohibitive.
Instead, many of these companies started out by managing their share register on a spreadsheet when they had only a handful of shareholders. However, as businesses grow and increase the number of shareholders, using a spreadsheet for share registers can become problematic. With the increasing popularity of crowdfunding and capital raising platforms such as The Snowball Effect, many private companies are suddenly seeing their number of shareholder members explode, putting a lot of pressure on the Directors, CEO and CFO to ensure all share register details are correct and compliant.
Additionally, there are a number of disadvantages to using a spreadsheet for a share register. This includes manual inputs and formulas being prone to errors, multiple spreadsheet versions causing confusion and mistakes, and a lot of administration time and effort going into spreadsheet updates and maintenance.
Companies can use online share registry software such as Orchestra to manage share registers and to track investments in a company over time. Online share registers include a portal that allows individual investors to log-in and review their shareholdings. Companies can manage all their share register details and meet their legal obligations, while their lawyers and accountants can be given access to view and update details. Additionally, all updates made in Orchestra are synced with ASIC or the NZ Companies Office, so companies know that details are correct and compliant.
Companies can also manage their Employee Share Schemes (ESS) and ESOPs online in Orchestra, and their employees can access and view their options and share information using the online portal. This includes secure online storage of documentation including Offer Letters for each ESOP participant, and access for the company to run online secondary share trading events, allowing employees to buy or sell their shares amongst fellow investors.
DISCLAIMER: This article is for informational purposes only, and contains general information only. Orchestra is not, by means of this information, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business or interests. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business or interests, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. This information is not intended as a recommendation, offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any options or shares.