Many investors transfer their accounts from one brokerage firm to another without a hitch. If your transfer goes smoothly, count on the whole process taking two to three weeks. But this time frame may vary depending upon such factors as the assets involved, the types of accounts, and the institutions between which the transfer occurs.
Transfersmay be delayed if:
-the wrong transfer form is used;
-the transfer form has been incorrectly completed;
-the transfer involves a request to liquidate some or all of your assets;
-the transfer includes a margin account;
-the transfer is from one type of account into a different type of account;
-a change in the account owner is made; or
-the transfer involves a retirement account.
-This document walks you through the transfer process and provides tips on how to avoid problems.
Use the Right Form
Use the correct form to ensure your transfer goes smoothly. Some firms allow you to use one form for all account transfers while others have different forms depending on the type of account you are transferring (for example, an IRA account or a margin account). To get the right form, call the new firm where you want to transfer your account or visit its Web site.
Review the Form Carefully
As you start filling in the transfer form, review the account statement from your old firm where your account is held. All firms require you to attach a copy of your most recent account statement to the transfer form.
The form usually asks for the name on your account, the type of account you want to transfer, account number, the firm where the account is held, and your social security or tax identification number. Be sure you provide this information exactly as it appears on your old account. For instance, if your middle name or initial appears on your old account, you may run into delays if you forget to include it. When transferring only some of the securities in your account, carefully list the securities you want to transfer on the form.
The easiest way to transfer your account is to keep the type of accounts the same (joint account transfers to joint account; IRA to IRA) and account owner the same. You can change account type or ownership at the time of the transfer, but this may delay the transfer. You may need to provide documents proving changes to ownership, such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or death certificate.
If you have questions about how to complete the form, contact the new firm for help. Once completed, keep a copy of the form for your records.
Understand the Transfer Process
All transfers start and end with your new firm, but your old firm needs to take action too.
Most account transfers between brokerage firms are made using the Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (or "ACATS") system. The National Securities Clearing Corporation operates ACATS, and both the New York Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. require their member firms to use ACATS.
These rules require firms to complete various stages of the transfer process within a limited period of time. If the transfer is made through ACATS, and there are no problems, the transfer should take no more than six business days to complete from the time your new firm enters your form into ACATS.