Poor share certificates to become obsolete

As creative director of the agency responsible for the design of Abbey National’s Shareholder Services identity and literature, I am sorry to hear that Roger Rolfe is so disappointed by the appearance of his newly acquired share certificate and its “complete absence of any sense of value”.

We at Blueprint share Mr Rolfe’s nostalgia for the days of thick rag paper, embossed inks and security engraving but, unfortunately, these are expensive luxuries. Modern documentation is designed within financial and technological constraints.

Abbey National issues an average of 1000 share certificates each day. At the risk of sounding glib, I would suggest that the majority of the company’s shareholders would prefer to minimise the cost of producing their share certificates for the sake of maximising the value of their shares.

Unlike many large public companies, Abbey National holds and administers its own share register. In keeping with the demands of modern banking, and in order to deal efficiently with the requirements of more than three million shareholders, the register is computerised and linked to a sophisticated document image-processing system. Hence the presence of a bar code. Unfortunately, aesthetics must of necessity sometimes be sacrificed for efficiency.

As regards the safety warning, Mr Rolfe may be surprised to hear that design companies have very little input into the wording of statutory documents such as share certificates. And recent flotations and mergers of banks and buildings societies have created a large number of new shareholders, not every one of whom is as aware as Mr Rolfe of the significance of the certificate.

On a more positive note, Abbey National has received a very favourable response from shareholders and was voted winner in this year’s ProShare awards for clarity and effective design in shareholder communications.

Finally, it may console Mr Rolfe that with the forthcoming introduction of the CREST system of paper-free share dealing, share certificates will become obsolete and the above points academic.

Mike Axford

Blueprint Design

Surrey TW9 3QB

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