• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Investors complaints reveal yawning gap

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NGOZI UCHE

At all levels of operation in the capital market there is seen to be gross negligence of the interest of the ordinary investor going by the response to issues that concern them.
The capital market sector of the Nigerian economy has undoubtedly grown in leaps and bounds with the number of players increasing by geometrical projection in recent years due largely to the banking and insurance consolidation which popularized the market as a viable investment window.
However, it remains a source of worry to investors and industry watchers why operators- stockbroking firms, registrars and sale agents to offers do not handle the issue of customer care with the seriousness it deserves. It is disappointing that many of them do not have functional customer care units dedicated to handling clients’ enquiries and complaints and even when they do it merely serves to pay leap service to what customer care connotes.
A careful assessment of customer care service of registrars and brokerage firms in particular reveals a wide disparity between expectation and delivery. The role of registrars in the system is so central that a high premium should be placed on efficiency of service. This can only be achieved if they could attach human face attached to their work bearing in mind that a good customer care is the livewire of any business.
Dealing with a vast number of investors at all levels of share transaction; the registrars are expected to operate a virile and responsive customer care such that an investor could get a call from a staff concerning the position of his/her share transaction. The responsibility for the delivery of share certificates, dividend warrants, slips, notice of annual general meeting (AGM) to the doorstep of investors should be done in such a way that the investor does not have to lose sleep over the fact that such vital instruments have been lost in transit.
In some instances, notice of annual general meetings (AGMs) and the annual reports get to shareholders after the meeting or few days to the meeting. Whereas the law requires that it should reach shareholders not later than two weeks before the meeting to allow them go through the report and be ready with reactions to be presented during the meeting.
When operators are confronted with these lapses, it is normal to hear them pass the buck to NIPOST; blaming the inefficiency of our postal system for delays in dispatching the mailed items. They also blame investors for either wrongly supplying addresses or for failing to notify the registrar when they change address. However, the fact that our postal system is grossly inefficient places more responsibility on capital market operators to device means of relating with their clients to complement the postal system in order to promote efficiency and raise confidence in the system.
In practical terms, it is expected that operators structure out efficient internal mailing system to drive efficiency of what they do thereby compensating for the lapses of the national postal system. This is possible since most of the registrars are subsidiaries of banks and other conglomerates. There is need to leverage on that synergy to provide better service to the vast clientele in the system.
It is important to note that whereas investors can afford to do without stockbrokers, they cannot afford to do without the registrars. This is true when we consider that some investors who decide not to trade on their shares may not need the services of brokers. But this is not true with the registrars as they are seen to be at the centre of stock transaction both at the primary and secondary levels of the capital market.
Very many investors are going through the nightmare of non-receipt of share certificates, return monies or dividend warrants after many years they were due for collection. All attempts to get across to the registrars to send the missing instruments have been greeted with institutional hurdles that proved insurmountable.
In their desperation, they have recently resorted to the media to help ease the frustration they face with brokers, registrars, companies that floated private placement and their agents.
A few of such cases may be referenced here for the purpose of clarity. According to Busari R. O., I submitted 1200 units of WAPIC Insurance to Premium Securities for verification since May lst year and CSCS is yet to be credited. Please find out why.
Adenike Fasina wrote to say in 2006, when First Bank of Nigeria declared a 1:1 bonus issue I was elated as I had convinced several members of my family to buy into FBN Plc. But we are yet to receive our share certificates and though I sent e-mails to some officials of the registrars on this issue, I am yet to get any response.
Another investor complained that he subscribed for 10,000 shares of May and Baker plc during their last public offer through the broker PIPC Securities Limited in Jos and was allotted only 3,600 units of shares. However, as at the time he was writing, the returned money had not been sent to him whereas the share certificate had been sent over a year ago. He said all efforts to get information from the registrars proved difficult.
Severally I have contacted the accountant by name Shola on the telephone on many occasions who promised to feed me back after giving him my details but he has failed to so. Please sir help find out what happened to my return money of over N25,000 more than two years now, he pleads.
The levity and laiser faire attitude with which operators handle such quests often send wrong signals to the shareholders who would begin to take panic actions as they become suspicious of the intention of the operator.  They would begin to express concern over the safety of their investment since the operators are not relating the true position to them.
But from the standpoint of operators, non-response to clients who are not physically present could stem from three important factors – fear of relating with fraudulent personalities and impostors in the system, lack of organisational structure that clearly provides for such service and lack of adequate human and capital resources required to carry out the function. The last two factors are true when we remember that many of the operators do not have offices in all the states of the federation accessible to investors in all the nooks and crannies of the country.
The question therefore is, does a small investor who resides in another state have to travel all the way, incur all the expenses and expose himself to the all road hazards and travel down to Lagos over a minor complaint involving investment that may not worth more than N5,000? It would be expected that registrars designate a desk that will be solely responsible for investors’ complaints about non-receipt of instruments.
Yet another ugly experience of investors that reveal the poor state of customer service delivery is the deliberate delay in dispatching dividend warrants of high values to their owners. An investor once told of how he had expected the warrant for 2007 financial year dividend of one the first generation banks declared since December 2008 without receiving it.
However, he visited the registrar for something else and just mentioned that he had not received the warrant. Surprisingly, he was asked to come and sign for it. He then wondered why the dividend was never posted to him in the first place or even if they were trying to guard against fraud as they often claim, why is it they did not call his phone requesting his attention in person to pick it up; he wondered. The investor therefore concluded that the registrar was making use of the funds.
However, there are still a few in the system that are seen to be more proactive in their handling of customers; having at the back of their minds that customer satisfaction holds the key to business sustainability.
Experience has shown that even after making promises to investors in response to enquiries by journalists to send the missing item via the branch of the parent company that is closest to where the investor resides, such promises may never be fulfilled. After many months such promises were made, the shareholders would still be writing to the media that he could not collect the item at the point he was directed.
I tell my staff that if someone walks in here angry, he should be smiling by the time he is living. This is because where the person will talk about this organisation, I will no t be there, a chief executive officer of a registrar once said.
A registrar on the Marina Street had to send a replacement dividend warrant by Speedpost after receiving a written complaint of non-receipt of the original from the shareholder. The amount spent for sending the registered mail was a clear testimony that the registrar is committed to customer satisfaction which is the hallmark of business relationship.
Customer care essentially is the process of meeting and exceeding your customer expectation of service. The broad objective involves building a culture of customer focus, creating rapport and building loyalty to achieve customer satisfaction. Going by these basic tenets, one would want to know how operators that deal with many shareholders in the Nigerian capital market can satisfy them without functional telephone lines.
Most of the customer lines are oftentimes engaged going by the tone you hear. This could mean that the receiver is deliberately not replaced or the lines may not be enough for the teeming number of callers. Even when an investor may be lucky to hear a voice at other end, there is no commitment on the part of the organisation to resolve the issue complained about.
This indeed frustrating as a sizeable number of investors who reside in the hither land other than the commercial city of Lagos where most registrars are situated, are neglected and left to their fate.
It is a known fact that the issue of customer care is poorly addressed on the African continent as a whole among businesses. Whether micro, small and medium enterprises or limited liability and publicly owned companies, they all score low in the scorecard.
This is the view of a professor of marketing from Manchester Business School , Pikay Richardson, who observed that poor customer service has been the bane of businesses in Africa. You walk into a store and the attendant young girl is staring at you without saying a greeting; noting that customer care is the life blood of any business but neglected by business owners in Africa.
Market operators often adopt undue silence at their end dumping cases that should otherwise have been responded to and promptly too. Since the capital market has assumed a beehive of activities with the surge in the number of investors since post consolidation, operators need to deal with the increasing challenge of meeting client expectations.
The present situation has put a strain on the system, manpower and resources of registrars and broking firms who now have to deal with larger client base that sometimes run into millions. The regulators should therefore see the need for operators to upgrade their IT, systems and processes as well as increase of their manpower base. This would ensure the achievement of higher standard of service delivery in the system.