In today’s IRMatters post, Rachel Sakurai, Computershare General Manager and Head of Sales, shares valuable insights to help you on your next virtual AGM.
This year has been filled with uncertainty for many organisations, especially when it comes to AGMs. Companies with a reporting deadline of December 31 bore the brunt of the COVID-induced uncertainty earlier this year, during the off-peak AGM season in April and May. But, many companies adapted, successfully taking the virtual “leap” into unknown territory.
Out of the 4500 meetings Computershare has already conducted across the globe this year, over 1300 have been fully virtual. At the same time in 2019, the number of virtual meetings was only in the low hundreds.
Below are some of the key insights we’ve gleaned from the last few months, that you can utilise when preparing for your next virtual AGM.
Many companies have been running online AGMs for years, and you can’t deny there are many enticing benefits:
- Everyone can attend, regardless of where they are in the world, they can log on to a secure site and attend the AGM, vote and ask questions. This is convenient and cost effective for companies whose key stakeholders are spread across the globe.
- Companies can look to reduce their carbon footprint simply by choosing to hold a virtual AGM. With the ability to host meeting collateral online, the amount of printing and mailing required for a virtual meeting is usually minimal.
- Holding a virtual meeting saves you time and money, reducing the costs related to providing a physical venue, such as room hire and catering.
Everyone can attend a virtual AGM regardless of where they are in the world.
Due to the mounting interest in online meetings, we have seen a rise in the number of guests attending online AGMs. For the most part, these include spectators looking to learn how other companies are tackling the shift to virtual meetings. When comparing AGM attendance figures from 2019 to 2020, overall attendance has increased by 36%.
One of the big benefits of choosing a fully virtual meeting is of course the time-saving ability to moderate and group questions during your Q&A session. Many issuers have even chosen to appoint an independent moderator to manage questions, and this is made easy when the functionality is built into the platform they utilise for their AGM.
In our experience over the last few months, the evidence shows that the number and nature of questions raised by shareholders has not been impacted by the shift to online meetings. On average, Computershare clients received 33 questions submitted online during their meetings. In most cases though, four or fewer questions were received.
Overall attendance in virtual AGMs has increased in 2020.
Voting is the other key topic of interest when it comes to virtual meetings and despite speculation, we haven’t seen much change in the voting patterns of institutional investors or custodians. There are also many different schools of thought when it comes to managing voting during an AGM. Offering live voting is an excellent way to ensure your votes are secure. By opening voting lines at the beginning of the meeting you give your shareholders adequate time to submit their votes and potentially change their vote throughout the course of the meeting.
It is clear that issuers can still effectively engage their shareholders through the use of technology, modernising the shareholder experience and offering new ways for shareholders to engage. Technology opens the door for shareholders who would otherwise have to travel interstate or overseas in order to attend an AGM, and it gives issuers a way to increase efficiency and decrease costs.
The key takeaways to remember when preparing for your virtual AGM are:
1. Make things simple for your shareholders by ensuring your technology platform is device-neutral and offers them a seamless experience.
2. Pay special attention to your Q&A — seek genuine engagement with your shareholders and ensure you are well prepared for any questions that may arise.
3. Prepare your executives for success by equipping them with scripts and making time for them to rehearse and practice using the meeting technology.
Ensure your technology platform is device-neutral to give investors a seamless experience.
Computershare Investor Services encompasses a broad portfolio of products and services that cover an extensive range of financial markets across every major region. Our experienced team of meeting specialists are on hand to guide you and your company through even the most complex AGM.
Learn more about online meetings and how Computershare can help set you up for success.
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