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I would like to invest in stocks of various companies, however I am deeply concerned with the counter-party risk that the institution which holds the assets on my behalf carries (e.g., a bank or a brokerage firm). Is there any way to hold stock certificates in a manner that I do not expose myself to the risk of any individual financial party?

I am aware different regulations require brokerage institutions to hold client assets separately. My question does not refer to these as I do not entirely trust them.

My question also does not refer to any scenarios that require whatever sort of direct relationship to the company issuing the assets.

PS: An ideal answer would be independent of country. If it is not possible to answer generically, I am a resident of Switzerland.

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    Also I know that some companies offer direct stock plans to employees, which they can hold without a broker - citation needed. EPPs usually use brokers. In rare occasions where companies manage their own stockholder books, you'd be able to register your share with the company as well, but these are rare and are usually smaller private companies that you can't buy into anyway.
    – littleadv
    Mar 13, 2023 at 17:37
  • Fair point, rephrased it.
    – user119972
    Mar 13, 2023 at 18:13
  • This is the DRS (Direct Registered Shares) that the gamestop folks keep talking about. The shares are in your name, not the name of the firm that handles the DRS paperwork.
    – user253751
    Mar 13, 2023 at 19:05
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    This is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Stocks are a non-guaranteed high-risk investment in themselves, unlike cash or even bonds. The risk of losses from simple stock price volatility far outweighs the risk of bank/broker fraud, especially since the latter is insured in some countries (SIPC in the US).
    – user71659
    Mar 13, 2023 at 19:52

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I'm not sure it is still possible to get physical stock certificates. Which is a pity since they were often lively example of the engraving and printing arts.

In theory, if you are on record as the owner of electronic shares it should be possible to get physical certificates issued if they still exist; contact the company's shareholder relations office.

Of course you would then be accepting risks of theft, natural disaster, simply misplacing the document ... This does not strike me as an improvement, and I converted my five certificate shares to electronic shares long ago.

But you do you. Can't hurt to contact the company in question and ask.

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  • Thank you for your answer. Yes afaik physical certificates existed in the past and for the reasons mentioned by you, they are not fully devoid of risk themselves. Ideally there would be some record tied to my identity that would allow only me to possess of the certificate, regardless of the paper form thereof. Also something like a public, decentralized ledger of stocks and who possesses them for instance. To my knowledge, neither exists.
    – user119972
    Mar 13, 2023 at 18:02
  • The company knows who it's shareholders are.
    – keshlam
    Mar 13, 2023 at 18:19
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    @davidsawyer it does exist. I believe in India and in Hong Kong they have these kinds of ledgers. US corporations are required to have their own stock ledgers, and you can register your ownership with the company (but then it may be a bit more difficult to transact with these shares, as street ownership through your broker allows)
    – littleadv
    Mar 13, 2023 at 18:31
  • Better answer than mine, @littleadv
    – keshlam
    Mar 13, 2023 at 18:35
  • Thank you @littleadv, that indeed answers my question - at least a good part of it. If you would like to post it as an answer I could accept it. Definitely will research further how to register my shares with a company, as then I would feel safer in holding larger amounts. Since I do not trade often ease of transaction is but a minor consideration, fading entirely to counter-party risk.
    – user119972
    Mar 13, 2023 at 18:59

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