2020 was defined by the frenetic scramble to move online, as organizations looked to safeguard business continuity amidst an unprecedented pandemic that shook the business world to its core. As a result, everything that could move online did go online, including annual meetings, where organisations switched their traditional in-person annual meetings to a hybrid (a mix of in-person) or virtual (online-only) AGMs.
As of April 22nd 2020, an estimated 2,240 annual meetings around the world were planned to be online-only. For context, in 2019, only 286 meetings were held online. . However, numbers being released from many Registrars and Transfer Agents, as well as our own data, show that this number is considerably higher. By the end of that year, Lumi conducted over 3,000 virtual and hybrid meetings, and we saw a real shift in perception towards the idea of digital meetings: in a survey undertaken by Lumi, 61% of investor relations professionals anticipated that their 2021 meetings will contain a virtual element, with an additional 11% of respondents believing that their meeting would be entirely virtual. As we begin the 2021 AGM season in earnest, those 2020 predictions have been borne out in the plans of many FTSE companies, as they prepare for another hybrid or virtual meeting this year.
It certainly seems the case that whilst lockdown may have instigated a change, organisations have realised that virtual AGMs are not just a short term solution – there are benefits to be had, even as restrictions ease in Spring this year. Higher attendance numbers, a greater representation across the shareholder or member base, better engagement, lower costs, positive environmental benefits and less time consuming are all reasons that our clients have cited as why they will continue with virtual meetings in the future.
Those that have made the switch already know the value to their organisation of a hybrid or virtual AGM, but one of the most common questions we are asked is how much does a hybrid or virtual AGM actually cost?
There are several factors that can affect the cost of adding a virtual element to your annual meeting or going entirely digital.
This picture of the UAE Football Federation’s virtual AGM gives you an idea of the new post-COVID reality for annual meetings. It’s unlikely that large, fully in-person AGMs will return by the end of this year, and it’s much more likely that the new hybrid model of a virtual meeting with a small in-room component will become the norm.
Lumi is the trusted partner of over 3,000 organizations in 40 countries worldwide. If you are considering a virtual or new-hybrid AGM later this year, or for 2021, please do get in touch.