‘Not only do we have a higher proportion of retail investors than the average for a FTSE company, but at M&S we also understand this investment extends beyond the financial and that our retail holders are some of our most loyal customers, too.’
So says Fraser Ramzan, head of investor relations at UK retailer Marks and Spencer (M&S), sharing his views on retail investment in the new Best Practice Report: Rethinking retail investors.
‘Retail investors want to engage with companies, to share their views and vote on the issues that matter to them,’ he says. ‘Research has found that 92 percent of retail investors are interested in attending an AGM and the number one reason people attend AGMs is to ask questions – demonstrating the appetite for this group to talk to companies directly.’
M&S takes a very active and engaged approach to its retail cohort.
‘M&S has invested in engaging regularly with its retail shareholders through better digital communications,’ says Ramzan. ‘For example, shareholders who hold in their own name and have registered for e-comms receive direct, personalized updates from M&S relevant to retail investors. We know they value these communications as our open rates on them consistently achieve above 60 percent. We put time and resources into engaging with retail investors who hold in their own name and want to extend this to those who hold in nominee accounts, too.’
Talk to the board
‘We set up our Private Shareholder Panel in 2016, giving retail investors access to the M&S board,’ he continues. ’The panel comprises a selection of private investors who are invited to meet with the chairman and members of M&S’ senior management team regularly throughout the year, during which they hear business updates and provide their input on the business’ direction of travel.
‘But this cohort is currently limited to those retail shareholders who hold shares in their own names. We’d like to extend the right to participate to all shareholders – including those who hold in nominee accounts – but, due to outdated company law, M&S is currently restricted from engaging with this group of shareholders.
‘That’s why we’re proposing that digital is made allowable for all shareholder communication and an email address should be a prerequisite of purchasing equity.’
This article is compiled from the Best Practice Report: Rethinking retail investors, sponsored by Proxymity.