The Right Transfer Agent for You
Outsourcing transfer agent functions is a smart business decision. The answers to these questions will tell you if a transfer agent firm will be a good operational partner for you.
A guide to evaluating transfer agent service providers for alternative investment funds
What to look for and questions to ask about systems and services when considering a transfer agent.
If you’ve decided to use a transfer agent, you’ve taken a big step in laying the groundwork for a scalable and successful investment fund. But it is crucial to select the right transfer agent. In Part 1 of the buyer’s guide, we evaluated the transfer agent firm’s experience, breadth of service offerings and service flexibility. Here are some additional characteristics to think about when evaluating a transfer agent provider as well as some questions to ask about their capabilities.
Transfer Agent System Sophistication and the Technical Expertise of the Transfer Agent
Your transfer agent’s systems should increase back-office productivity and provide you with reporting that make your life easier. Transfer agent systems must be of high quality and adaptable in order to meet your company objectives. You want your transfer agent partner to be able and willing to develop any custom programming, enhancements or system features that your fund requires. Your back-office procedures will be powered by the transfer agent system. A sophisticated transfer agent system integrates all back-office processes, links with the industry’s important participants and centralizes data, documents and historical information. The system should also be accessible and useful to you.
A transfer agent’s system sophistication and technological capability are important. Questions to ask:
- Can you customize your transfer agent system to my asset type and business requirements?
- Does your transfer agent system have the ability to receive files from other systems or service providers?
- Do you have digital connections between your transfer agent system and custodians, wire houses, broker-dealers, RIAs, DST FAN Mail, the AIP platform and family offices?
- Can your transfer agent system provide me with sales and transaction reporting to help my sales teams?
- Can you adjust your systems’ financial reporting to accommodate GAAP accounting, auditors, deal teams and fund management?
- Can you generate ILPA-compliant reporting for my institutional investors?
A transfer agent’s technology matters. Here’s why:
- Advanced transfer agent systems save money by cutting down on execution times and errors.
- You can better manage your fund with customized reporting based on data from your transfer agent system.
- The sales and transaction reporting features of the transfer agent system can help you find new investor capital faster.
- A transfer agent system with data linkages to outside industry entities facilitates and speeds transaction execution.
- The efficiency of your transfer agent system improves your back-office performance and your brand’s reputation among advisers and investors.
- The controls, approval stages and audit trails built into an advanced transfer agent system improve overall accuracy and simplify audits.
Customer Service as the Transfer Agent's Top Priority
The way your transfer agent partner supports you, the client, is critical. You should not be required to leave voicemails or speak with different departments when calling your transfer agent partner. You should not have to wait in phone queues. The way your transfer agent partner treats your investors has a major impact on your reputation and potential for future investments. Serving and representing you should be a top priority for your transfer agent.
A transfer agent’s approach to customer service is important. Questions to ask:
- When and how will my transfer agent team be available?
- On a daily basis, who will I communicate with? Is there back-up personnel for that person?
- How experienced are the members of your transfer agent teams?
- How frequently do your employees leave? What is the average tenure?
- Will the individual I speak with be familiar with my fund and how we run things?
- When my investors and advisors contact my transfer agent, what will be their experience?
- Is there any part of your customer service team that you outsource?
- What criteria do you employ to assess your transfer agent teams’ customer service?
A transfer agent’s customer service excellence matters. Here’s why:
- The transfer agent’s job is to save you time, serve your needs and keep you from being distracted by back-office concerns.
- Your transfer agent account team should be as much like your own people as possible: responsive, knowledgeable and familiar with your requirements.
- The way your transfer agent partner treats your investors and their financial advisers represents your brand and makes an impact.
Pricing for Transfer Agent Services That is Value Based
Although the price of transfer agent services should not be the most important factor in your decision, it should be taken into account. When you consider a transfer agent’s pricing, very low prices could signal outsourcing, poor service quality or a small under-equipped transfer agent trying to break into the industry. Extremely high prices may reflect the brand recognition of a well-known transfer agent rather than representing real value to you. Value pricing in transfer agent services represents a clear relationship between the transfer agent’s fees and the actual time and effort necessary for the transfer agent to properly fulfill administrative operations.
Transparent pricing for transfer agent services is important. Questions to ask:
- How do you charge for your services of a transfer agent?
- Do you charge by the percentage of assets under management, the number of investors or based on time and effort?
- Do you charge separately for different transfer agent services or do you charge a flat rate for everything?
- How does the price of your transfer agent services change when my fund increases in size or when more funds are added?
- Is your pricing structure straightforward and easy to understand?
Pricing is an important consideration if you want to spend your transfer agent dollars efficiently on behalf of your investors.
A transfer agent’s pricing model matters. Here’s why:
- Larger transfer agent businesses may not provide the same level of service to their smaller transfer agent clients as they do to their larger transfer agent clients. You don’t always get what you paid for.
- You don’t want to pay for poor service and frequent errors because you engaged a low-cost transfer agent.
- More than just money should drive your connection with your transfer agent partner.
- Compared to building out your own in-house transfer agent team, pricing for outsourced transfer agent services should represent a significant savings while providing professional service to investors.
A Solid Working Relationship
You’d hire responsive, competent and technically knowledgeable people if you were building an in-house transfer agent team. The answers to these questions will assist you in determining whether an outsourced transfer agent provider is qualified, equipped and interested in being the kind of team you would hire yourself. Outsourcing transfer agent functions is a smart business decision that results in a more efficient division of labor, but only if both parties are capable and on the same page. The answers to the above questions should give you a good idea of whether or not a transfer agent firm will be a good operational partner for you.
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