Virtual Shareholder Meetings in the Age of COVID-19
The world has certainly changed since March 12, 2020, when The Ticker first noted rising interest in virtual shareholder meetings (VSMs) due to COVID-19. According to updated facts and figures recently released by Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc. (Broadridge), 1,957 VSMs were held on the company’s platform in 2020, a 500 percent increase over 2019.
Some of the most noteworthy statistics in Broadridge’s report on VSMs held in 2020 are:
- 98 percent were virtual-only meetings, of which 99 percent used audio only and 1 percent were conducted with video.
- 57 percent of the companies holding VSMs were small-cap, 24 percent were mid-cap and 19 percent were large-cap.
- 95 percent of companies allowed live questions to be submitted via text box and 10 percent collected questions online in advance of the meeting.
- 84 percent of the companies holding VSMs were first-time adopters.
- The average meeting had 49 shareholders and non-shareholder guests in attendance.
By and large, institutional investors and proxy advisors have been understanding of the need to rely on VSMs in the age of COVID-19. Still, it is important to follow best practices. For example, proxy advisory firm Glass, Lewis & Co. recently set forth its expectations of companies holding VSMs in 2021.
Above all, companies holding VSMs should remember two fundamentals:
- VSMs should be used to broaden, not limit, shareholder meeting participation.
- Shareholders should be afforded the same rights and opportunities to participate as they would at an in-person meeting.