The JSE is to looking to launch a countrywide initiative that would help return R4.5bn worth of unclaimed dividends to rightful shareholders.
The Africa’s largest stock exchange operator said on Thursday it would deploy its tracing services to identify and reunite individuals with unclaimed or “lost” entitlements stemming from limited or outdated information about the owners or holders of shares.
“As the JSE, we firmly believe that returning R4.5bn worth of unclaimed dividends to SA owners of shares will make a profound economic impact on their lives,” said Vuyo Lee, the JSE’s director of marketing and corporate affairs.
“We are excited that companies with large shareholder bases are joining forces with this JSE initiative.”
About R88.56bn worth of unclaimed assets was sitting across the financial sector, with R4.5bn worth of unclaimed benefits in the form of unclaimed dividends, according to the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, the body that regulates the conduct of the financial institutions.
The initiative will begin with a shareholder education drive to inform the public on how dividends work, the ways unclaimed dividends could arise and how individuals can verify whether unclaimed shares and dividends are due to them from listed companies that are participating in the initiative, and how to update their shareholder information.
The JSE Investor Services (JIS), a subsidiary of the JSE, will be the implementation agent for the processing and paying of dividends to legitimate claimants, as well as updating the share registers of companies.
The JIS has over the past five years identified and paid R408m due to thousands of investors, including a significant portion of BEE shareholders, with some claims dating back more than 15 years, according to Lee.
The division has scalable contact centre capabilities ring-fenced for the initiative, and will use data privacy and access protocols, as well digital capabilities for shareholder validity verification, the exchange operator said.
These include a direct link to the home affairs department for Financial Intelligence Centre Act (Fica) purposes and will introduce online claims processing through ShareHub, its digital shareholder communication portal.
“The roll out of the unclaimed dividends initiative requires the involvement and support of the broader business community and financial markets to ensure its success,” Lee said.
“To date, the JSE has engaged with several of the larger issuers who have indicated their commitment to participate in the initiative and will contribute to its nationwide implementation.”