Hybrid AGMs are fast becoming the norm. This is no longer due to the Covid pandemic but rather due to increased participation by 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.
Apart from adhering to good governance standards, most legislation globally requires shareholders to be able to participate at an AGM concurrently. By providing verbal questions in a hybrid environment, remote shareholders can contribute to the meeting concurrently alongside in-room shareholders. That said, voice integration needs to be done in a professional manner to avoid any unnecessary disruptions which could be caused at the click of an unmute button. Remote shareholders should be verified by an operator 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. This is in respect of the performance of the company overall, the reasons for decisions taken by the company, and the adherence by the company to overall 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 for 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 that may require clarification. 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. The board and management should view it 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 promotes integrity, allowing shareholders to ask informed questions timeously and efficiently.
Engagement is part of ethical management. Where companies adopt a strategy that provides for constant meaningful engagement with shareholders, investors are more likely to champion company policies and decisions. The shift to a hybrid environment has seen shareholders be more actively involved in their AGMs, asking more questions and scrutinising board activity more than ever before. The company champions meaningful engagement by allowing remote shareholders to participate verbally at an AGM. It conveys to shareholders that the door is open to having a meaningful discussion on important and relevant matters.
AGM | Hybrid Meeting
AGM | Hybrid Meeting | Virtual Meeting
AGM | Hybrid Meeting
Hybrid Meeting | Investor Relations