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A transfer agent is responsible to a corporation for keeping track of who owns the corporation's stock and bonds and whether those securities are registered in the name of an individual investor or a brokerage firm, which is known as street name registration.
In some cases, stocks can be registered directly on the books of an issuer or its transfer agent using the direct registration system (DRS).
Increasingly, ownership records are electronic, though a transfer agent may issue stock and bond certificates to new owners if they request them. The transfer agent also receives certificates that represent securities that have been sold or returned to be reregistered.