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What clients have told us
We've been asking clients for their views on the likely format of their 2021 company general meeting. Here's what they told us.
First, we asked for their view on the likely format of their meeting should the current restrictions on social gatherings/meetings remain broadly the same as they are now. Most respondents (39%) felt that their first choice would be to keep a closed-door meeting. As referenced above, this approach is likely to come in for some criticism from the proxy advisers, shareholder groups and potentially also the FRC and government.
However, 31% of respondents felt they would be exploring a hybrid meeting solution, combining a physical venue with remote participation options. The third most favoured approach was a closed-door meeting with a separate Q&A session.
Our survey then asked respondents to suggest what their preferred meeting format would be if the current restrictions on social gatherings were withdrawn and more traditional meetings can be held. Most respondents (61%) suggested that their preferred option would be a return to pre-pandemic style meetings, with a physical venue. This too is likely to attract some criticism given the newfound acceptance of both the technology to facilitate remote participation by shareholders and the potential benefits that could be derived by making meetings more open to geographically dispersed shareholders and those unable to attend a chosen venue at a specific date/time. Again, the second most common choice for respondents (19%) was to consider the introduction of a hybrid solution.
At Computershare we've witnessed a significant shift taking place in the US and many other global markets, with rapid adoption of technology designed to facilitate remote participation. However, the UK and Irish markets have been slow to follow suit, and the absence of legislation to ensure fully virtual meetings are beyond challenge, is a barrier for some. However, the impact of COVID-19 on the speed of change has been immense, and it feels like a matter of time before remote meeting participation is adopted as best practice.
A third question in our survey asked respondents to rank what might influence their decision on how they held their 2021 AGM. Respondents equally felt that confidence in technology being used and the desire to provide shareholders with a way to participate were the most important factors, quickly followed by difficulties with having board members attend and the cost of available technology solutions.