While the majority of companies worldwide reported an increase in the number of virtual annual meetings this year, US companies bucked the trend with a 5 percentage-point reduction in their use.
A report published by Computershare reveals that 37 percent of AGMs were held virtually in the US in the period to June 30, 2022, with 63 percent held in person, up from 55.9 percent last year. The report also notes that no US AGMs opted for a hybrid format this season, unlike other regions where use of the format was up on last year.
‘In the US, Computershare issuers pivoted back to in-person meetings, especially when the business could take advantage of an opportunity to showcase its consumer goods or high-cost equipment, such as farming equipment or truck manufacturers,’ says Ann Bowering, CEO of Computershare in the US.
Interestingly, Canada moved in the opposite direction, seeing the biggest increase in the number of virtual meetings held for each of the regions studied – up from 30.3 percent in 2021 to 36 percent this year, according to the report.
The number of Canadian companies opting for in-person meetings decreased by more than 6 percentage points this year, while hybrid use was up from 0.4 percent to 0.8 percent in 2022.
Irfan Motiwala, CEO of Computershare Canada, says data from the Canadian market might indicate the start of a trend and shape how AGMs will be held in the future.
‘More companies are beginning to recognize the value of virtual AGMs as they enable a much broader shareholder engagement opportunity regardless of where they are based,’ he says.
Across the Atlantic
Globally, fully virtual shareholder meetings largely retained their popularity, the report notes, with more than 28 percent of global AGMs happening through a screen.
But countries in continental Europe reported the biggest fall in the number of virtual AGMs held this year – down from 72.3 percent to 51.8 percent in 2022 – as well as the biggest increase in physical meetings, up to 43.8 percent from 25.2 percent in 2021.
Despite this, the percentage of meetings held in person by European companies remains lower than any other region surveyed. This is because preference changes depend on market cap, according to Computershare Europe CEO Kirsten van Rooijen.
‘We saw smaller companies in continental Europe move to physical meetings, while large-cap companies typically stayed fully virtual or brought in a virtual element, especially those with an international board,’ she says.
In the UK, companies gravitated more toward hybrid AGMs, with the proportion of in-person meetings dipping by 4 percentage points.
This is due to long-term engagement benefits, says Mark Cleland, Computershare CEO for the UK: ‘The pre-pandemic trend of allowing pre-submitted questions has continued and we’re also seeing shareholders submitting higher volumes of proxy instructions online, which we expect to continue into 2023 and beyond.’