AGMs IN THE AGE OF COVID – WHAT THE 2021 AGM SEASON WILL LOOK LIKE

AGMs IN THE AGE OF COVID – WHAT THE 2021 AGM SEASON WILL LOOK LIKE

Virtual AGMs are here to stay, it seems.

Figures confirm that virtual AGMs accounted for around three quarters of all annual meetings in 2020 and with the continuing uncertainties of COVID-19, the regulator, ASIC, has announced a ‘no-action’ position on such meetings until 31 October 2021 too.

So, what will best practice AGMs look like this year?

Many companies saw the 2020 AGM season as an opportunity to try new meeting formats – hybrid or fully virtual – as well as trying new technologies, such as interactive webcasts and online voting. Interestingly, many companies reported increased shareholder attendance due to virtual participation.

It was a learning process for many companies, who faced challenges ranging from technical glitches with online voting to concerns about “one-way communication” between company management and shareholders, or less time for comments and questions.

Companies we worked with over the past 12 months took this feedback on board and factored in extra time for technical testing, implemented systems to ensure equal voice was given to questions from shareholders in the room and those online (e.g. taking alternate questions from in the room and online), and ensured the questions were answered by the director with the relevant responsibility (e.g. Chair of the Audit Committee).

They also gave shareholders the opportunity to hear from directors who were up for re-election and built adequate time into the agenda for shareholder comments.

For companies planning 2021 AGMs, it’s important to note that ASIC’s ‘no-action’ position is conditional on a number of factors including:

  • Shareholders participating remotely being able to ask questions and make comments during the meeting
  • Voting occurring by poll rather than a show of hands
  • Providing “each person entitled to vote being given the opportunity to participate in the vote in real time” (and also before the meeting, if possible), and
  • Including information on how to participate virtually in the notice of meeting.

In light of this, and the continuing pandemic uncertainty, now is the ideal time to review plans for your AGM and consider our Top Five AGM questions:

  1. What meeting format will best meet the needs of your company and your shareholders – physical, hybrid or virtual only?
  2. If hybrid or virtual, does your technology provider allow for real time questions and voting by shareholders participating virtually?
  3. What back up plan will you put in place in case of a technical issue, and how will you communicate it to shareholders in real time?
  4. What’s your approach to shareholder questions and comments and do you plan to publish all questions and responses on your website, even if you don’t get to them during the meeting?
  5. Have you booked your technology provider for your 2021 AGM?

Need a hand? Our experienced team at Cannings Strategic Communications can help you review the options and plan your best practice AGM. Get in touch today: admin@canningscomms.com.au