Ok, so this story is about my time with a life insurance company. There was one question/request I received basically every single day. and not a single person ever came remotely close to understanding the answer. Maybe you can tell me why?
Background: There’s two basic types of insurance companies in one sense, mutual companies (policyholders co-own the company) or stock companies (people that own shares of stock own that much of the company). If you start as a mutual, and convert to a stock company, you have to give your existing policyholders an appropriate amount of stock in the company so they keep their ownership. This happened maybe 15 years before I started working there, so plenty of people got some stock this way. That part can be a little confusing, but it’s not vital to know either for this story. What you need to know, is they possess a stock certificate in our company. Go.
Every single day, I got a call that went like this:
“Hi, I have this stock in your company, and I want to trade it in for cash.”
“Ok, well you got that from (explains process above in layman’s terms), and now it’s just like any regular stock, you buy, sell, trade stock just like you would any other stock you own or have in your portfolio, but you can’t call the company and trade it for cash.”
“No, you don’t understand, you sent me this stock years ago, but I don’t want it anymore, I just want to get a check for what it’s worth!”
“Oh, I understand, but selling stock is done through a stockbroker, or bank, or financial institution, or probably many more other ways, but you can’t just redeem it through customer service, for us or any other company.”
“So you’re refusing to give me the money for my stock?”
“No… I’m telling you that stock doesn’t work this way. If you owned Wal-Mart stock, you can’t just take it to the customer service desk for cash. This is the same. If you have any investments, or know where you’d go if you wanted to make some, probably your bank, go to that same person for this. If they can’t help you for some reason, they’ll know exactly where to send you.”
“So this is just worthless, that’s what you’re telling me?”
“No, just, if you don’t have anyone you trade stocks with already, call your bank, I’m sure they’ll be happy to tell you what your options are.”
“The bank didn’t give this to me, you did! Let me talk to your manager!”
I understand for some people, this might be the only stock they owned, and were unsure at first, but I think the explanation works? Also, I talked to plenty of people paying thousands of dollars a month for multi-million dollar policies, I can’t believe that not a single one of them has a portfolio or financial guy at their bank or SOMETHING. But every single time a call started with stock, it ended with bafflement.