|The “Big Four” Registered Agents
At ResidentAgentInfo.com, by virtue of the nature of our site, we receive tons of questions about registered agents from companies, individuals and law firms. There are hundreds of registered agent service companies and thousands of registered agents. Since any attorney or CPA can usually act as a registered agent, this, in itself, instantly creates hundreds of thousands of potential agents.
In our many conversations with our site visitors, the four names we hear most often are the “Big Four” registered agents that make up most all of the registered agent business in the United States. These “Big Four” are the Corporation Trust Company, Corporation Service Company, National Registered Agents, Inc. and InCorp Services, Inc. in positions 1, 2, 3 and 4 respectively.
How solid are these rankings? Pretty solid, we’ve discovered. We decided to query the Secretary of State databases from a number of states ourselves and found that not only are these the four largest service companies by number of active units represented, but from our research, it does not appear that there will be a change in these positions anytime soon (years?) since each of these four positions are separated by such a large margin.
1. The Corporation Trust Company, or “CT” as it is usually called in law offices, is by far the largest company. They are known for being very old and for hosting large corporations. They are also known for being very expensive – probably the most expensive agent there is. They are owned by a large multi-billion dollar Dutch company that also owns a number of related businesses. Every single Secretary of State database we’ve examined showed CT in the lead as the largest registered agent. Most of the older law firms we’ve spoken with use CT for their clients, but complain that it is expensive. The younger law firms with whom I’ve spoken are tending to shy away from CT.
2. The Corporation Service Company or “CSC” is also an extremely large company that has a number of related subsidiary companies to service their clients. CSC has also been around for over 100 years, but our research using Secretary of State databases reveals that they are substantially smaller than CT. Our Secretary of State database research once again corroborates that their “#2” ranking is just that. With one exception we found, they are the second largest registered agent in every jurisdiction. Many law firms and paralegals we speak with use and recommend CSC.
3. National Registered Agents, Inc. or “NRAI” is a latecomer to the world of big registered agent service companies and probably the most interesting story of them all. Comprised of a number of former disgruntled CSC and Prentice Hall employees, NRAI was founded and began to take substantial business away from what was before a two-man show. NRAI achieved this through the implementation of cutting edge technology and innovation along with much lower prices and aggressive marketing which enabled them to quickly cut into the business of CT and CSC. 30 years ago it was unfathomable that any other company could pose a threat to CT or CSC, but NRAI now has a number of extremely large clients including PepsiCo. NRAI has a somewhat loyal following amongst the paralegals we speak with. It can be assumed that NRAI has had to perform “above and beyond” to cut into the business of the established companies, but they have done an amazing job of doing so and more and more of the law firms we speak with mention “NRAI” as their preferred service provider.
4. InCorp* Services, Inc. or “ISI” started as a small Nevada incorporation company but has somehow quickly risen to join CT, CSC and NRAI and round out the “Big Four” agents. Like NRAI, ISI leveraged technology, service and lower prices to attract a number of high-profile clients. Like NRAI, InCorp leveraged cutting edge technology to attract clients, but combined this with aggressive guerilla marketing and strategic acquisitions to make them round out the “Big 4” agents. As with NRAI, we hear their name more and more when speaking to paralegals and law firms.
So now there are four. We all remember how the Big 8 accounting firms became the Big 5, then Big 4, etc. How many large service companies will there be in the future and how will this affect the choices you have and the prices you pay? Will there be another fast rising company to make this the “Big 5” agents? Perhaps one day CSC will make a strategic move to acquire both NRAI and InCorp to consolidate the industry to a Big 2, and in the process potentially make themselves number one. Business being as it is, perhaps CT will acquire them all.
In any industry, no matter the level consolidation, customers can rest assured that there will be at least one small firm out there just waiting to attract business from established industry leaders who may become complacent and lazy. There will always be another small motivated and innovative company to attract disgruntled customers of firms that become so large that they lose touch with their customers.
Since the original posting of this article, InCorp Services, Inc. has become a paid sponsor of this site.