Let's say you want to transfer your employee stock purchase plan (ESPP) shares from ComputerShare to your brokerage account. Here's what I've found:
- Call ComputerShare at 781-575-2727 during U.S. Eastern time business hours. (Their toll-free number was dead the last time I tried.)
- Prepare for a long 3-5 minute authentication process where an automated voice tells you all about your account, v-e-r-y slowly. Say "customer service" as much as possible. Have your employee number, PIN #, and account number from the ComputerShare web site / statements handy. When you do finally get to a human, they're actually pretty pleasant to deal with, as long as you're patient and polite.
- Tell ComputerShare's rep to transfer your ESPP shares to common stock. (Common stock shares are Direct Registration System (DRS) eligible. If you try to transfer ESPP shares directly to your brokerage, they will be denied.) This step is required. You can only do this over the phone, not online.
- Wait 1-3 business days. Observe at ComputerShare's web site that your shares have transferred to common stock.
- Login to your brokerage and select broker to broker transfer, then select "ComputerShare - DRS" when doing the transfer. Select the option to transfer whole shares only. (Partial shares won't transfer.) Attach a PDF copy of your newest ComputerShare statement. Wait 5-7 days for the transfer to complete.
Q. Is this free?
A. Usually. Neither ComputerShare nor my brokerage, as of this writing, charge a fee for a broker to broker transfer. Check with your brokerage to make sure.
Q. Why would you want to do this?
A. In my case, I did it for several reasons, including:
- I wanted to get the shares out of ComputerShare using the least expensive method possible. There are larger fees for selling shares via ComputerShare's system.
- I wanted to use my brokerage's far superior (though still not perfect) web interface to manage the bulk of my shares. Navigating ComputerShare's site requires at least 3 button presses to get to the actual login page, where you select from 3 different types of usernames for logging in, followed by a multitude of confusing buttons to get details about what you own. Their whole site seems like it hasn't been updated since the mid-1990s. My brokerage, by contrast, has one login page, one username type, and presents almost everything you need to know right away. Their customer service is 24/7 too.
Q. What do I do with my shares after they've transferred over successfully?
A. It's up to you. You can leave them where they are (incurring the risk that your company's stock will go down, potentially wiping out any ESPP savings), you can manually sell them for cash (incurring a tax and a trading fee cost), or you can automatically sell them for cash using a limit order at a price a little under the highest you've seen in the last 1-3 months (noting that you will still incur a tax and trading fee cost). If you sell them for cash and you don't need the money right away, you may want to reinvest them according to your asset allocation.
Q. Why would I want to purchase ESPP shares in the first place?
A. Check out The Finance Buff's excellent article on ESPP shares - he goes in depth about why you might want to do this.
Q. What is ComputerShare?
A. ComputerShare is a stock transfer agent. For more info, see Brokerage Review's article (which also discusses their fees).