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Improving the quality of debate at AGMs

A frequent criticism of the current format of company general meetings is that the quality of debate between shareholders and the board is lacking. That questions from the floor tend to be of a more trivial nature, focussing on an individual’s grievances with the company or requests for clarification on details from the annual report.

This is perhaps unsurprising when you consider the format through which this interaction takes place. There aren’t many of us that would have the confidence to stand up in front of a room of 500 people and enter in to a public debate on company strategy with a highly qualified CEO of many years standing.

So how do we go about removing this barrier?

The key here is to change the channels through which these questions can be asked. Technology now exists that allows shareholders to cast votes at the AGM via a mobile phone, many of these products also allow for attendees to send their questions through in text format, a far more comfortable experience than having cameras directed towards you in a large auditorium.

The advent of virtual meetings also broadens the range of attendees. The sophisticated investor who doesn’t have time to attend the meeting in person can now ask a question of the board without leaving their desk. With the inclusion of webcasts in AGM apps the shareholder can experience the meeting regardless of their physical location.

Oliver Bampfield, Managing Director of Lumi Australia