When AGM season is fast approaching there is a lot to plan and execute and it can seem as though there is never enough time to get everything done.
Oversights might seem inevitable, but they don’t have to be. To ensure important items don’t get missed during your planning phase, use this article as a guide to plan a successful AGM.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to planning an AGM, so begin early and make sure to ask yourself these questions:
Has the meeting date been set?
Did you receive a strike in 2018?
Do you have a shareholder communication strategy in place?
Have you engaged with shareholder activists and proxy advisors yet?
Have your management team voted?
Hold it later in the week
Have you ever been so eager to meet your regulatory requirements and your mailing deadlines that you've picked a date for your AGM without considering which day of the week will be most advantageous?
If you're planning to hold your AGM on a Monday or Tuesday, consider the fact that proxies will close off on a weekend which makes it difficult to contact relevant parties and resolve any instances of over-voting. Although over-voting is on the decline, in 2018 there were 33 cases of over-voting recorded on the over-vote register for Computershare managed meetings. So consider holding your meeting later on in the working week.
Gather intelligence and act
In 2018 we saw an unprecedented 24 companies in the ASX300 receive a strike, including nine companies in the ASX50. It was evident both retail and institutional shareholders were taking a stand on executive remuneration.
If your company received a strike in 2018, it is important for you to learn who the shareholders are and why they voted against your report. For more information on executive remuneration and gaining investor support, read our whitepaper.
In preparation for this year's AGM, investigate who the key decision-makers are behind your top shareholders and gather the intelligence to determine how they will be voting this year.
Don't forget about management, including board members and trustees for employee share plans during voting. Not only is every vote important but when votes such as these are missing it is a highly visible error and may affect the outcome of the overall vote.
Be proactive in managing activism
In 2018 activism became a prominent fixture at many AGMs, causing a record number of ASX300 organisations to receive a first strike. Shareholders are voicing their concerns on the remuneration of executives and demanding transparency around prominent ESG issues.
Make activists aware of the rules and code of conduct of the meeting and consider having someone from your business available prior to the meeting to speak with activists, allowing them to voice their concerns and potentially reach an understanding prior to the meeting.
It's 2019 and shareholders are increasingly demonstrating preferences towards digital communications. So, what are you doing to meet these needs? Have you thought about offering online and mobile device voting? This can be a simple way to connect with your shareholders, enabling you to reach and garner votes from a much larger audience.
Hybrid meetings are a great way to increase attendance as they offer the advantages of online participation in addition to the traditional in-person shareholder meeting. Virtual meetings on the other hand are those conducted wholly online with no physical element. Unfortunately, current regulations continue to require Australian listed companies to hold a physical meeting. Perhaps soon we will see a shift, and virtual meetings will become the norm. The future is full of possibilities.
Want to hear more about how our digital capabilities can benefit you? Read our case study on dual listed client OceanaGold. Learn how they took advantage of Computershare's hybrid meeting capabilities, allowing them to reach their international shareholders and cut down on costs, or download a copy of our whitepaper on virtual meetings here.
With key industry issues and events like the Royal Commission ruling, climate change and executive pay being constant fixtures in the media today, it is important you are regularly monitoring the press, social media and any industry commentators during, throughout and after your AGM. It is important to make this step a part of your communication strategy from the beginning.
On the day
The day of an AGM can be stressful, but we think our checklist below can help a great deal in ensuring it runs as smoothly as possible, so make sure you organise following:
- A designated contact to speak with activists/media personnel that may be present prior to the meeting commencing
- Meeting materials such as: annual reports, notices of meeting and any other materials that shareholders may request a copy of
- Your constitution
- Previous meeting minutes
- Chairman's script/agenda for the day
- A laptop at the ready with internet connection to upload ASX announcements at the meeting
We hope you found this article beneficial and that it will help you ensure your AGM goes off without a hitch.