Unclaimed Dividend: Amnesty Window Still Open to Investors- Olugbemi

Bayo Olugbemi is a highly experienced and revered investment banker, leader and achiever, who rose from a humble beginning to become a successful player in Nigeria’s financial services sector. With the philosophy of diligence, perseverance and resilience, Bayo stands tall among his peers in investment banking and a force to reckon with in the Nigerian Capital Market.

It’s been a while we had a chat with Bayo Olugbemi, particularly on this platform. There have being a lot of issues and complaints from our esteem readers in which Mr. Olugbemi has done good justice to a number of times on our various social media platforms; but we want to extend such privilege to our readers on this platform. Excerpts:

Let me use this opportunity to congratulate you on your election and investiture as the 21st president of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Nigeria (CIBN) and we also want to say a very big thank you on behalf of our social media group members for your prompt responses and supports always. May God continually attend to your calls.

First, let us talk about new happenings and developments in the Registrar business. We know there are lots of efforts going on behind the scene to improve and ease the day to day activities of shareholders. Is there any of such we need to know?

That’s absolutely correct, a lot is happening in the industry and they can be summarized into 3 parts:

First is the near full digitization of the Registrars processes. By this I mean, we are keen about leveraging more on technology to deliver on our services, improve shareholders’ experience and reduce traffic to our offices. We have come up with several digital service delivery channels and customer touch points. For instance, we have conducted 2 AGMs and 1 EGM during the lockdown and they were all virtual meetings.

Second is the introduction of virtual meetings with the support of the client companies and lastly is the introduction of mobile voting at corporate meetings, so you can be anywhere in the world and watch the livestream of an AGM and also participate in the voting proceedings.

Sometimes in 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced an amnesty allowing shareholders with multiple accounts to merge to one. This was extended till December last year. Does this opportunity still subsist? And if yes, kindly shed a little light on this.

The window is actually still open to investors. We know during the Capital Market boom, shareholders who wanted to take advantage bought shares using diverse names just to ensure they were allotted. However, with BVN and the aggressive campaign for e-Dividend, claiming dividends with names not matching the ones in the bank became a serious issue. The regularisation is a good move by the regulators and the shareholders and general investors are the sole beneficiaries.

We must commend you and your team because in the recent, we have lesser complaints on dividend payment; but we believe we cannot stop educating existing and potential shareholders on this subject. Kindly advice on what to do to continually have a seamless transfer of dividend into shareholders account.

The registrars alongside the regulators are regularly investing in public awareness to promote the adoption of e-Dividend which is the direct payment of dividends into shareholders bank account. Prior to now, shareholders could only initiate the process from the registrar but as it stands now, shareholders can initiate the process of e-Dividend from their banks without the need to visit the registrar, all thanks to SEC, NIBBS and of course the Registrars. This has also eliminated the request for Banker’s Confirmation. To complement the efforts of the regulators, we have invested massively in technology and new products such as the First Dividend Prepaid Card with which shareholders do not necessarily need to have a bank account to claim their dividends. Dividends are paid into their prepaid card and they are able to claim it via alternative digital channels and ATMs.

What is the current status of unclaimed dividend in Nigeria and kindly advice shareholders on how to claim these outstanding dividends?

Like I mentioned earlier, shareholders simply need to visit either the registrars or visit their banks to complete the e-Dividend Mandate form, which is processed by the bank through NIBSS e-Mandate Platform and sent to the registrars for the completion of the process and vice versa. But overall, unclaimed dividends have drastically reduced as a result of e-Dividend as shareholders are automatically credited with their outstanding dividends upon a successful completion of the e-Dividend process. It is what we are agitating for as Registrars.

As a highly esteemed investment banker, how would you advise people to prepare for the post COVID-19 investment shift and most importantly, which direction of investment should one be looking at now and after this pandemic?

On preparations for post COVID-19, it is time we started developing strategies around remote work initiatives. Companies need not go 100% remote at the early stages though. However, it is something that may become the new normal, and the earlier we started making plans in this regard, the better. Again, like I earlier said, AGMs and EGMs are already going virtual even voting at virtual meetings is now done via mobile voting which we have also experimented with one of our clients Extra-Ordinary General Meeting, EGM.

On which investments to look at, I think it is too early to predict that especially when the COVID-19 cases are yet to witness any significant downward trend, though the cases recorded in some developed countries are becoming flat.

We know very well that First Registrars has always been on the top of its game, what new things should we be expecting soon?

A few things in the pipeline include: developing a full policy around remote work, encouraging more of virtual meetings and live streaming of corporate meetings and of course working with the regulators to ensure certain laws are modified to allow for the virtual voting at corporate meetings. There are so many other technology driven initiatives as well.

 

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