The importance of voice integration in a hybrid environment
Hybrid AGMs are fast becoming the norm, to accommodate increased participation amongst shareholders.
Most companies have shareholders situated in various parts of the globe. The hybrid mechanic enables all shareholders, who would not ordinarily be able to attend the AGM in person, to dial in remotely and still participate.
Critical to ensuring that remote and in-person shareholders have the same experience at an AGM, is voice integration. It no longer suffices to have remote shareholders only be able to ask written questions – they too need to have their voices heard as if they were in the room. Voice integration promotes good governance and ensures transparency, a pillar of good governance. Equal participation
Apart from adhering to good governance standards, most legislation globally, requires shareholders to be able to participate at an AGM concurrently. By making provision for verbal questions in a hybrid environment, remote shareholders can contribute to the meeting alongside in-room shareholders.
That said, voice integration needs to be done in a professional manner to avoid any unnecessary disruptions. Remote shareholders should be verified by an operator to confirm that they are indeed shareholders, prior to being permitted to ask a question. In a hybrid environment, the Chairperson should take questions from in-room participants and remote participants interchangeably to ensure best practice.
The rise of shareholder activism has placed companies under a microscope, particularly for how they manage and adhere to good governance. A decision taken by the company to not allow verbal questions by remote shareholders is likely to lead to shareholder dissent and could lead to a disruptive and ineffective AGM. By allowing remote shareholders to participate verbally, companies provide an inclusive environment and promote equal participation.
The AGM is the opportune time for shareholders to hold boards to account by asking questions and debating important issues. Meaningful engagement with shareholders, and encouraging participation are inseparable when looking at an AGM. Companies should look forward to the Q&A session at an AGM. It should be viewed by the board and management as an opportunity to interact with shareholders; to alleviate any shareholder concerns; and to explain the company’s strategies and decision-making processes fully. Interacting with remote shareholders through voice integration enables meaningful dialogue from both sides; it allows remote shareholders to ask follow-up questions instantaneously, and it promotes integrity, allowing shareholders to ask informed questions timeously and efficiently.
Engagement is part of ethical management. Where companies adopt a strategy that provides constant meaningful engagement with shareholders, investors are more likely to champion company policies and decisions. By allowing remote shareholders to participate verbally at an AGM, the company champions meaningful engagement and conveys the message to shareholders that the door is open to have a meaningful discussion on important and relevant matters.
Lumi is the leading digital platform facilitating in-room, hybrid and virtual AGMs for the world’s largest corporations and membership organizations. It is the only platform that digitizes the entire lifecycle of an AGM in a single solution that enables sophisticated meeting facilitation before, during and after the live meeting.