Market regulator Sebi has decided to outsource its investor helpline service to a third-party call centre, where at least 500 agents would be required to attend to investors’ calls on issues like IPOs and trading. The decision to outsource its investor helpline comes within weeks of Sebi deciding to rope in third-party agencies for processing and maintenance of investor grievances.

Faced with the Herculean task of handling lakhs of investor complaints, Sebi in March last week had decided to outsource such activities to help it resolve the investor complaints on a fast-track basis.

Now, Sebi has decided to empanel a third-party call centre to run its nationwide toll-free investor helpline, where the investors’ calls would be initially attended to between 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, an official said.

The timings and hours might be extended further after three months.

Incidentally, Sebi is in the process of finalising a set of regulations for outsourcing of work by various market intermediaries such as brokers, mutual funds and investment bankers. The regulator is said to be against outsourcing of the market entities’ core and investor-sensitive activities.

The investor helpline call centre would be required to attend investors’ calls on matters like procedure for lodging complaints, opening of trading accounts, complaint status and assistance in issues like transfer and transmission of shares, IPOs, etc.

Besides, the call centre would also need to provide guidance on status of companies on whether they are unlisted, sick, vanished or delisted, matters pertaining to other regulators that are not under the Sebi purview.

The agency would also require to record and track the calls, inform the Sebi about status of processing of calls, but would not provide legal opinions and investment advice.

Sebi wants the call centre agency to have at least five years of experience in BPO business and an authorisation from the telecom ministry for running a call centre.

Besides other necessary infrastructure and experience, Sebi also wants the company to have a minimum of 500-seat operation capacity for one shift and a 1,500-seat capacity for three-shift operations, with equal number of call centre agents working on its roll.

Sebi wants the agency to provide the call centre service from Mumbai and provide space for one of its offices in its premises.

On the previously proposed outsourcing of investor grievance processing and maintenance work, the activities to be outsourced by Sebi include receipt of complaints, forwarding them to the concerned market entities and companies, tracking their status and conduct follow-ups.

Besides, the agencies would also be responsible for entry of the complaints into Sebi’s computerised grievance redressal system with proper categorisation and codification, updation of the system with Action Taken Reports (ATRs) and keeping investors informed about progress on their complaints.

Sebi is putting in place this web-based centralised system, named Sebi Complaints Redress System (SCORES), for speedy redressal of grievances.

Sebi’s existing investor grievance redressal mechanism lacks a centralised database and the resolution of the complaints often gets delayed due to physical movement of files from one desk to the another across its various offices.

Besides reducing time gap between receipt and redressal of a complaint, the new system would also help in storage of the investor grievances, whose numbers have swelled to over 2.7 million since Sebi’s inception.

Sebi received more than 32,300 investor complaints in 2009-10, while the numbers are even higher at over 39,600 in the first nine months of the current fiscal.

The new system would have a centralised tracking system for all grievances at various offices and divisions of Sebi.

Currently, the list of investor grievances are maintained at various divisions and regional offices of Sebi.

Sebi has told the prospective agencies to be empanelled by it for handing investor grievances to dedicate at least 10 skilled persons for the job initially and wants them to have prior experience in handling registrar and transfer activities, depository services or investor matters.

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June 2021