TA Service, Nineteen-Eighties' Style
In 1978 a small stock transfer operation opened in Chicago with a single client - Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago. The transfer agency was a subsidiary of The First Jersey National Bank of Jersey City, NJ. Today, both financial institutions have faded from the memories of all but a few who are old enough to recall their existence.
The new agency was called Exchange Place Securities Transfer, Inc. It’s not true that the name commemorated the Exchange Place Inn of Jersey City, although many meetings associated with it took place at that former New Jersey landmark. The name did acknowledge the New Jersey roots of the company. It was found “written on the subway walls” of the PATH, one stop west of the World Trade Center station.
EPST, as it was known in its day, had many lows and highs. Perhaps its finest hour was in 1982 or 1983, when the business virtually closed for a week while Continental and EPST put other things aside to assist someone with a critical problem. That someone was Procter and Gamble.
That year P&G had arranged to print its annual report and proxy statement in Chicago, while it prepared its proxy card in Cincinnati. The proxy card was designed to act as not only the voting piece but also to carry the shareholder name and address. Last-minute revisions were made to documents during the printing process so that, given the technology of the day, they were not dry enough to be shipped to Cincinnati in time for the mailing to be completed by the required date. So, a unique decision was made at P&G - bring the mailing and enclosing from Cincinnati to Chicago. But where?
All Was Done on a Handshake
Within hours a deal was struck. EPST would make its staff, premises and mailing equipment available to P&G for as long as necessary to complete the mailing. Contracts, indemnifications, compensation? None written, none considered. The only issue: Can we pull this off?
On a Tuesday, “strangers” arrived from Cincinnati, plus cabinets filled with over 300,000 proxy cards. Other printed materials arrived hourly. At EPST all non-critical tasks were set aside and mailing machines recalibrated. EPST staff enclosed packages by hand to complement the machine mailing process. The
only sounds heard on the floor at EPST for the balance of the week, around the clock, were the rhythmic pounding of the Pitney Bowes machines and the whisk
of the hand-enclosing process.
Trucks were rented, mail buckets procured and by Friday and lots of pizza and take-away later it was over. As quickly as it began, it ended. Our new friends - - the strangers of Tuesday - went home to Cincinnati, as did the cabinets. The chairman at P&G thanked his counterparts at both Continental and First Jersey. EPST staff went back to regular tasks – with a profound sense of pride and accomplishment.
The annual meeting was a success. Months passed, and eventually the
“P&G job” faded to memory. There's one more piece of the story to be told. A check showed up at EPST drawn against P&G for an amount well in excess of the expenses incurred. All attempts to return a portion of the payment were rebuffed by P&G. At the suggestion of management, the funds were used to sponsor a Thanksgiving turkey gift program that holiday season.
Gerry O'Leary, UPRR