Earlier this year, the Australasian Investor Relations Association (AIRA) hosted a briefing which included commentary from Computershare Australia on trends in annual meetings during 2016. While ASX listed companies are usually significantly larger than New Zealand, there are many similarities and learnings which can be shared across the ditch.
Some of the key outtakes are below:
Back To Simple: Companies are moving away from highly designed annual meeting materials and back towards simple, black and white communications.
Low Attendance: Attendance at annual meetings remains incredibly low, around 1% of total shareholders. However, any suggestion of moving to virtual meetings only (such as Z Energy) has been met with a barrage of negativity.
Hybrid Meetings: While these are positioned as ‘best in class’, the cost involved in effectively running two platforms (physical and virtual) often outweighs the benefits, particularly for smaller companies.
Webcasting: A webcast of the physical meeting is recommended and is more engaging than simply an audio. Recordings or archived video should also be made available for those shareholders who are unable to watch the live stream.
Timing of Meeting: The day and timing of the meeting can have a big impact on attendance, as commented on by Brian Gaynor. Mornings are best and earlier in the week is better than last thing on a Friday afternoon. Older shareholders like being able to use their Gold Cards which allows access to public transport after 9am, so make sure they have plenty of time to arrive at your meeting if they choose this mode of transport.
The day of the meeting can also have an impact on companies chasing proxies. With proxy close-off often 48 hours before the meeting, it is best to ensure that this does not fall over a weekend which makes it more difficult to chase last minute proxies.
The Right Venue: While retail shareholders are becoming increasingly disengaged, a higher percentage of retail shareholders tend to turn up to small company meetings. Venues that are easy to get to and offer free parking are preferred. Companies should be asking themselves where their shareholder base is located and holding the meeting in a convenient venue. If it is too hard to get to, shareholders may start wondering what the company has to hide.
Tweaking the Structure: Some companies are changing the formal structure of the Annual Meeting. In one instance, all resolutions were put to the meeting at once, then the proxies were announced, and then a Q&A was held for all the resolutions, followed by voting. While only a simple change, it saved time going through the formalities for each resolution.
Other Drawcards: Some factors enticing shareholders into meetings include goodie bags, different/interesting venues, freebies, guest speakers of interest, great catering, free drinks.