New York, NY – US companies' switch to online annual general meetings as a result of the pandemic has led to increased demand among shareholders for more substantial interaction with boards and executives at online AGMs, according to Computershare.
The global transfer agent, which last year helped around 2,000 clients worldwide set up and manage online AGMs, says that these changes have led to an increased expectation among shareholders that they will be able to see and listen to key company representatives, including via video broadcast of their presentations and responses to questions.
Jennifer Warren, CEO Issuer Services North America at Computershare, said: "AGMs play a key role in corporate governance and provide companies with a valuable opportunity to interact with shareholders as part of their broader investor engagement strategy.
"Although the move to online AGMs was largely driven by necessity, many of our clients have found that the format can create new opportunities, including expanded access to a wider range of shareholders, increased engagement and an enhanced perception as a digital-first organization.
"If companies can meet the growing demand among shareholders to be able to take part in meetings in a way that improves their interactions with senior executives, members of the board and representatives from key committees, they can improve both investor trust and their reputation in the market.
"The precise way in which companies organize their AGMs should reflect their unique circumstances: their location, region, market, regulation, security needs, corporate strategy, aspirations and shareholder base, but we expect more companies to find that using video in particular supports their engagement strategy and improves accountability, accessibility and investor experience."
Beneficial shareholder access
Computershare also confirmed that it had integrated new technology to connect its virtual shareholder meeting offering to the two largest proxy services providers, including Mediant, to make it easier for beneficial shareholders to access virtual AGMs.
These upgrades, which Computershare said it had implemented in line with recent recommendations from leading industry stakeholders, mean US companies can now – online and behind the scenes – authenticate beneficial shareowners whose brokers use either proxy service provider when they log into a Computershare-managed virtual or hybrid meeting.
As a result, such beneficial shareholders in US companies will be able to gain entry and participate fully in meeting Q&As – and will no longer need to ask their brokers to provide them with a legal proxy ahead of the meeting or otherwise be admitted as guests.
Paul Conn, President, Global Capital Markets, Computershare, said: "We've worked hard with a range of industry stakeholders to define solutions that will improve the experience of investors and issuers at online AGMs.
"These improved access arrangements, coupled with new features such as the use of video to increase overall engagement, will greatly enhance the shareholder experience at virtual meetings."
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- Computershare helped over 2,000 global clients with their online AGMs last year, over 600 of which were in the US.
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About Computershare Limited
Computershare (ASX: CPU) is a global market leader in transfer agency and share registration, employee equity plans, mortgage servicing, proxy solicitation and stakeholder communications. We also specialize in corporate trust, bankruptcy, class action and utility administration, and a range of other diversified financial and governance services.
Founded in 1978, Computershare is renowned for its expertise in high integrity data management, high volume transaction processing and reconciliations, payments and stakeholder engagement. Many of the world's leading organizations use us to streamline and maximize the value of relationships with their investors, employees, creditors and customers. Computershare is represented in all major financial markets and has over 12,000 employees worldwide.