Over the years, CIRI has remained focused on its objective of delivering meaningful and sustaining benefits to its shareholders, including direct economic benefits such as quarterly dividends and CIRI Elders’ Settlement Trust payments.
So how does CIRI know who should receive the payments?
CIRI’s Shareholder Relations department assumes the monumental task of maintaining accurate and complete shareholder stock records. Those records form the basis for determining who is entitled to receive dividends and Elders’ Settlement Trust payments, and where those payments should be sent.
Although shareholders are responsible for advising Shareholder Relations of address and name changes, they sometimes forget to do so. This causes CIRI mail to be returned as undeliverable. When that happens, the CIRI stock records are placed on hold until the address is updated, during which time the shareholder will not receive dividends, tax reporting forms or information on upcoming events or opportunities, nor will s/he be eligible to participate in prize drawings.
In serving CIRI shareholders and descendants, Shareholder Relations strive to provide the highest quality of service, following CIRI’s values of excellence, honor and respect. So when it comes to locating missing shareholders, the department relies on a crack team that includes Lydia Thorne and Lucy Untiet. The two also field most of the incoming calls and visitors to the department.
Though she’s been a records coordinator in CIRI’s Shareholder Relations department two years, Lydia has been part of the CIRI family for a decade. She started as a barista with Cook Inlet Tribal Council, a CIRI-affiliated nonprofit, and then moved into an administrative position with a second CIRI-affiliated nonprofit, Southcentral Foundation. A CIRI shareholder of Inupiaq and Yu’pik descent, Lydia is connected to CIRI through her father, Glen Octuk.
“In addition to tracking down missing shareholders, I assist shareholders with address changes and setting up direct deposit and Qenek accounts. I also answer shareholder and descendant phone calls and e-mails, personally greet shareholders and descendants who are visiting the department and, at times, take them on building tours so they can meet other staff members and have a chance to see what it is that we do,” Lydia said. “I often assist shareholders by providing contact information for programs and services provided by CIRI’s family of nonprofit organizations. Anything our shareholders need, I’m there to help.”
Since 2013, CIRI has worked to increase the advantages available to descendants and youth. Youth voting, an annual art contest and educational incentives are a few of the opportunities available to CIRI youth regardless of shareholder status.
With two children, ages 5 and 3, Lydia understands firsthand the importance of registering descendants so they are able to take advantage of youth opportunities, even if they don’t own shares themselves.
“I had my kids registered as descendants, and my son was excited to participate in activities like the CIRI Youth Art Contest,” Lydia said. “I recently gifted them shares so that money could be set aside in a college savings fund, but even prior to owning shares they participated in CIRI youth activities. I’m hopeful that involving them in CIRI’s youth activities will encourage them to stay connected to CIRI and to their Alaska Native heritage.”
A CIRI shareholder of Iñupiaq descent, for seven years Lucy has worked as a shareholder liaison in the company’s Shareholder Relations department. “One of my main jobs is to look for shareholders who are missing,” she said. “I really like going online and looking for people and finding information. CIRI pays out dividends, and we want to be able to get those funds to people as quickly as possible. We also send out the Raven’s Circle newsletter and Annual Meeting information and tax documents, which we’re legally required to deliver.”
Lucy was born in Alabama, grew up in Anchorage and spent her early adulthood in Oregon, moving back in Anchorage in 2010. Her son, Ryan, studies healthcare management at Oregon State University. He is a recipient of scholarship funds from The CIRI Foundation and serves on CIRI’s Lower 48 and Hawaii Shareholder Participation Committee (SPC). “Serving as an SPC member has been a really awesome experience for him,” Lucy said. “He grew up in Oregon knowing only a handful of Alaska Native people. He’s learned a lot about CIRI and our family of nonprofits, and it’s opened his eyes to our culture.”
Lucy is connected to CIRI through her mother, Lucille Whisenant, whose family hails from the Nome area. Those family connections often come in handy when Lucy is searching for missing CIRI shareholders.
“I’m related to a lot of CIRI shareholders, so I’ll call my mom and ask her how to get ahold of somebody. A lot of my Facebook friends are friends with shareholders, and so I’ll actually tell my friends ‘Hey, I’m trying to find this person. Can you tell him to call me?’ Every once in a while, it works!”
“When we find a long-missing shareholder, it’s super exciting,” Lucy continued. “And even just the day-to-day successes, like ‘My gosh, I finally got ahold of this person. I’ve been trying to call her for a week!’ When they answer their phone, it’s a tiny victory, but it’s like ‘Yes!’”
In addition to finding missing shareholders, Lucy is responsible for managing CIRI’s descendant registration program. She also helps to develop questions for the weekly trivia contest posted each Thursday to CIRI’s Facebook page.
CIRI’s Shareholder Relations department is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Alaska Time Monday through Friday, and is typically staffed to remain open through the lunch hour. For information, visit www.ciri.com/shareholders or call (907) 263-5191 / (800) 764-2474.