ShareSoc and UKSA's battle for members intensifies

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The Independent Online

Britain's small shareholder groups are locked in a bitter war for members and influence following a split at the UK Shareholders' Association (UKSA).

ShareSoc, the new retail investor outfit, claims it already has more than 900 members after launching last month. The group was hatched by Roger Lawson, the UKSA's former communications head, and some other breakaway members after their failed attempted board coup last year.

Mr Lawson says his group has grown rapidly because it has tapped investor discussion boards on the web by offering free associate membership. Less than 5 per cent of his members pay the £100 minimum for voting rights and hard copies of communications, with the rest getting information for nothing over the internet.

The UKSA has about 1,300 members, with 900 paying £50 for full membership that covers up to two people in a family.

Mr Lawson said he was aiming for tens of thousands of members to match the equivalent groups in European countries and that his model was the right one for the internet age. "There are at least several hundred thousand active shareholders in the UK but I don't think a membership model works in the modern age because people don't expect to pay," he said.

Mr Lawson accuses the UKSA of weak campaigning, ineffective national leadership and a preoccupation with internal disputes. However, he says he would like the two groups to work together where they have common ground to make the views of retail investors heard.

Mr Lawson raised the UKSA's profile during the financial crisis with aggressive campaigning, particularly against the nationalisation of Northern Rock, but was accused of sowing discord by some members.

He left last year after forcing an extraordinary general meeting that failed to oust the former chairman, Martin White.

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