Another new year means another annual meeting season is approaching. At Computershare, we find that each year our clients begin their AGM planning earlier and earlier. After all, this is the most significant event on your annual governance calendar.
Wouter Beerman, Head of Canadian Issuer Services, provided this report on findings from the 2023 meeting season in Canada, and looks ahead to the 2024 season.
Spoiler alert: Virtual and hybrid meetings are here to stay.
2023 AGM season in review
Since 2020, the regulatory environment has changed to allow companies to continue using virtual meetings, rather than mandating a return to in-person shareholder meetings. Most provincial business incorporation acts were permanently changed to allow for shareholder meetings to be held electronically. Many public companies also changed their by-laws to allow for the option of electronic meetings.
With those regulatory hurdles cleared, the 2023 meeting season was a mix of virtual, hybrid and in-person meetings, as public companies chose the format that provided the best access for their shareholders.
The largest public companies in Canada opted for a virtual or hybrid model, recognizing that it allows shareholders everywhere to attend, while smaller public companies with closely held shareholders returned to the local, in-person shareholder meeting. Regardless of the format, Computershare continues to support the largest number of shareholder meetings in Canada.
The structure of the proxy system requires that beneficial shareholders take two steps — appointment and registration — to vote their shares and attend a virtual meeting. In 2023, appointee attendance trended down from the prior year, although guest attendance remained consistent.
In the US market, an integration to major intermediaries allows direct access for some beneficial holders. An equivalent integration has not yet been developed for the Canadian market, so companies continue to provide detailed instructions in the meeting information circular about how beneficial holders appoint themselves and enroll to attend the virtual meeting.
The convenience, reach and accessibility of a virtual shareholder meeting format is drawing more companies to use this format. Provided there is no contrary direction from proxy advisory firms, Computershare expects the virtual and hybrid meeting trend will continue in 2024.
Host a successful, compliant meeting
Whether you choose an in-person, virtual or hybrid meeting, our full-service meeting solution provides the communications and technology support to deliver a successful event. From planning to execution to post-meeting analytics — and every step in between — you can rely on our expert team for your annual shareholder meeting.
We manage proxy design, printing and distribution, voting and tabulation, all within our secure facilities, which means fewer hand-offs of shareholder information, fewer vendors to manage, and less risk. We can also coordinate with intermediaries so there is a consolidated view of all shareholder mailings.
Our proprietary virtual meeting platform is a proven solution used by hundreds of Canadian companies. Computershare's virtual meeting solution is secure, reliable and fulfills regulatory requirements. Now with an offering to suit every budget, a compliant virtual meeting platform is available to companies large and small.
It's never too early to start planning your annual or special shareholder meeting. Contact your Relationship Manager to learn how Computershare can help your company host a successful event.
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