Virtual shareholder meetings (VSMs) appear to be emerging as more popular than hybrid meetings, according to new data from Broadridge Financial Solutions, which shows the number of VSMs continues to rise. They are often touted as an effective way to expand the reach of a shareholder meeting.
In the first six months of 2018, Broadridge hosted 212 virtual meetings, up from 180 during the same six months in 2017. The company estimates that it will complete up to 300 VSMs and hybrid meetings by the end of 2018, which would represent a 27 percent increase on the number of VSMs in 2017. Virtual-only meetings are favored by issuers, with Broadridge anticipating that it will provide 274 virtual-only meetings this year, compared with just 26 hybrid meetings. If Broadridge’s projections come to pass, the number of VSMs will have more than tripled during the last five years. That period has also seen the trend of virtual-only meetings outstripping hybrid meetings in popularity: in 2014 Broadridge hosted 53 virtual-only meetings and 40 hybrid meetings. Cathy Conlon, Broadridge’s vice president of issuer strategy, said in a statement ‘shareholders can participate by viewing meetings, listening to discussions, asking questions and voting their shares, all with secure technology and without the cost and time to attend in person.’ She added, ‘companies holding a VSM have shown increased shareholder participation at their annual meetings and this is particularly helpful for individuals who have time or economic constraints, and those who live geographically far from the meeting but would like to participate.’ VSMs are legal in more than 30 US states, though some states carry restrictions.
A new committee, co-chaired by Darla Stuckey, president of the Society for Corporate Governance, and Anne Sheehan, former director of corporate governance at CalSTRS, has been formed to discuss best practices and principles for VSMs. The committee noted the increase in popularity of VSMs and wanted to raise a dialogue around creating events that are more accessible to a broader audience without jeopardizing shareholders’ ability to ask questions of company management. The full findings of the committee were released in a white paper here.