Computershare Gobbles Up Another Stock Transfer Agent: UMB

The list of transfer agents available to Corporate America shrank even further this summer, when Computershare announced its acquisition of UMB Bank’s stock transfer business — UMB standing for United Missouri Bank.   And while some may not have heard of UMB in this role, those corporate secretaries, investor relations officers and treasurers who have actively shopped the industry know UMB has been a very solid participant, boasting long-time clients of no less stature than Sprint Nextel, YRC Worldwide (the former Yellow Corp and Roadway) and Noble Corporation.   UMB is/was one of the last of a long line of great Mid-Western transfer agents, like Boatmen’s, Harris and First Chicago.   (And could LaSalle be next given its slated acquisition by Bank of America, who got out of the stock transfer business in 1991?)

Computershare’s UMB acquisition comes on the heels of its purchase of Equiserve in 2005, SunTrust Banks in 2006 and U.S. Stock Transfer in 2007.   Indeed, Computershare (based in Abbotsford, Victoria, Australia) is by far the most acquisitive of agents and, not surprisingly, is the largest transfer agent on the planet serving no less than 14,000 corporations and 100 million shareholders around the world.

What do we think of the UMB acquisition?   We are impressed with it as a business deal, and UMB stock transfer clients will have more services available to it and a bigger stock transfer organization supporting its investor service needs.   We were also glad to hear that Computershare is keeping many of UMB’s excellent staff in their roles and geographic locations to maintain those excellent (and perishable) UMB client relationships that have been in place for so many years.

However, as we have said in other articles on this web site, we fear what the further reduction in good old-fashioned competition in the stock transfer industry will mean for corporations and their shareholders.   UMB’s disappearance will mean the number of agents in the U.S. with more than a couple of hundred clients, representing more than a couple of hundred thousand shareholders, will drop to just nine.   Won’t that encourage the surviving agents to charge as much as they can for their services, believing customers won’t complain too much with so few alternative providers to consider?

Frankly, the reason we are in business is because this does indeed appear to be a trend.