Many mutual insurance companies (and for that matter, mutual thrifts and credit unions) often pass on a great opportunity to engage with their members – the annual meeting of policyholders.
Insurers are governed at the state level so the ability for them to supply an annual meeting ballot or annual report directly to members varies depending on location, the language in the company bylaws and articles of incorporation.
Many insurers deem the exercise to be either unnecessary or too costly. Some whose charters require them to canvass for a vote may only do so to members who have opted-in or voted in prior elections, or via a limited random sample of the membership.
The cost to design, print and mail materials, combined with a low response rate from members, may prove to be a not-unreasonable deterrent for a mutual insurer.
However, there are a number of significant benefits for insurers to hold a proxy vote, including:
- Compliance. Companies that encourage members to participate in the election of directors can benefit from this engagement. Given the scrutiny given to corporate governance and compliance in the public company arena – it may be a good idea to import some of the best practices of the public company world to the private company arena.
- Retention. Increased interaction with your members helps to make them more likely to stick with you as a customer. A customer who reads a well-written annual report is more likely to have a favorable impression of the company.
- Marketing. Your annual report can be used both as a necessary management and a marketing piece. For example, a young reader sees a testimonial in the report detailing how a member benefitted from a 529 College Savings Plan. They may then look into starting such a plan for their small children. Whether you decide to do a full-sized glossy annual report or a smaller summary, there are marketing opportunities which should not be missed. An accessible, easy-to-read report can go a long way toward building relationships with your members.
- Social responsibility. You can also provide members with the ability to get this information electronically, thereby reducing both paper usage and postage fees. Some companies provide their customers with incentives (such as plant-a-tree programs or providing reusable shopping bags with the company logo) to demonstrate the company's commitment to social responsibility and sustainability.
- Governance. By offering voting by telephone, smartphone and the internet, you are giving your members additional opportunities to have their voices heard. Be sure to understand your state laws for electronic voting options, as these rules vary state by state.
- Increased opportunity to reach the customer. Obtaining email addresses and other contact information from your members could prove beneficial in the future, whether for marketing, financial reports or for emergency communications. As your members become more comfortable with certain electronic communications, they become more likely to enroll in forms of e-communications (such as statements, invoices and the like).
- Future events. If your company ever merges with another or goes public, a track record of success with the annual meeting mailings would pay off. The process of validating contact information and communicating with members will have been tested many times over, and you will have a baseline on voting response rates to measure against.
Implementing or improving campaigns to canvass your members for a vote at the annual meeting can help your company in many ways. It improves the company's perception with both regulators and members in terms corporate governance practices and member engagement. Electronic delivery of annual meeting materials demonstrates good practices in both social responsibility and sustainability. Information gleaned along the way can prove helpful in marketing additional company products to people who are already doing business with you.
Contact us today to discuss how Computershare can help you run an efficient and cost-effective annual meeting.