As we dive into the 2023 AGM season, the shareholder voice is louder than ever. From climate change to executive pay, companies need to be prepared for engagement from shareholders on the issues that matter to them, whether through in-person or hybrid meetings.
There’s no question these issues are high on the agenda for investors this year. 77% of retail investors plan to stop buying non-ESG funds this year and Apple has recently announced a 40% cut to CEO Tim Cook’s pay package due to shareholder criticism.
For issuers, it’s important to find the balance between harnessing the voices of shareholders whilst still managing and governing your agenda. These are some of the considerations for hybrid AGMs that can help you engage investors, without stifling the shareholder voice.
There are many ways to facilitate healthy debate at your AGM and Q&A sessions have become an important way to facilitate this in recent years (partly driven by digitisation).
Managing incoming questions, adding structure to the process and making sure the meeting serves its purpose are all now critical to enabling debate on topics such as ESG or diversity. Hybrid meetings are key to supporting this, to ensure a broad representation of the shareholder base can attend and participate in the meeting. Questions can be submitted in advance and incoming questions can be managed by moderators in the moment to ensure all voices are heard.
While some shareholders might prefer to share questions in writing, a virtual microphone also allows virtual shareholders to ask questions verbally, giving even greater parity with those attending in person.
Managing potential disruption
While it is rare, some issuers may be concerned about the risk of disruption associated with engaged investors. If disruption at meetings is a concern, businesses could consider issuing a code of conduct ahead of their AGM – perhaps as part of the Notice of Meeting. This will clarify that sexist comments, swearing, racism or other inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated, and members will be removed, either virtually or in person.
Whilst it may not be needed, this enables issuers a safety blanket to eradicate unwanted behaviour and ensures businesses are providing all shareholders with an environment that allows them to share their opinions in a meaningful way.
Hybrid meetings also allow issuers to only admit those to the meeting who have the relevant credentials, reducing the risk of gate crashers or protesters.
Businesses might not always agree with investors but allowing for debate and providing shareholders with a say in how the company is run is critical to the success of an AGM. Having the right technology in place to facilitate this at hybrid AGMs will be a critical component in the success of your meeting.
Articles | AGM