It is an unfortunate feature of Covid regulations that many companies have used the waivers contained in those regs to avoid meeting with their shareholders at AGMs.
It is therefore gratifying to see that some companies are at least making some effort to provide a virtual forum to meet investors.
Two companies that I follow which have offered such forums are the RIT Capital Partners investment trust (RCP) and AstraZeneca (AZN). Unfortunately, however, there is a snag. RCP say:
You will be able to listen to the Annual General Meeting remotely by phone or online using your Shareholder Reference Number and your unique Confirmation Code on your enclosed Form of Proxy. In addition to the formal business of the Annual General Meeting, there will be a short presentation given by the Executive Committee of our Manager, J. Rothschild Capital Management Limited, and shareholders may submit questions to the Board and also to the Manager in advance of the meeting by sending an email to: InvestorRelations@ritcap.co.uk.
and AZN say:
Pre-General Meeting shareholder engagement event
21. On 30 April 2021 at 2:00 p.m. BST, the Company will live-broadcast online a presentation from certain
members of the Board and invite shareholders to participate in a live Q&A session should they wish to
Accessing the event website
The shareholder engagement event can be accessed online using most well-known internet browsers such as
Internet Explorer (not compatible with versions 10 and below), Edge, Chrome, Firefox and Safari on a PC,
laptop or internet-enabled device such as a tablet or smartphone. If you wish to access the event, please go to
https://web.lumiagm.com on the day.
On accessing the website, you will be asked to enter a Meeting ID which is 145-523-877. You will then be
prompted to enter your unique SRN and PIN which is the first two and last two digits of your SRN. These can
be found printed on your Form of Proxy. Access to the meeting via the website will be available from
1.00 p.m. on 30 April 2021.
(AZN are exemplary, arranging their event sufficiently in advance of the AGM to allow shareholders to cast their votes having heard answers to questions at the engagement event).
The problem is that shareholders whose shares are held in nominee account (i.e. most individual investors) will not have SRNs and so will not be able to access these events directly. As I wish to attend these events, I contacted both companies to find out how beneficial shareholders could attend these events.
This turned out to be more straightforward with RCP than AZN. In the former case, RCP just asked me to provide evidence of my shareholding. I sent them a copy of my investment account statement and they responded with a confirmation code allowing me to access their online AGM.
I received the following response from AZN’s registrars:
In order to participate in the Shareholder Engagement Event on 30th April, you will need to request that your nominee/broker appoints you as a corporate representative. Once the valid appointment had been made/received we will then issue the SRN and PIN required to participate. Access to the event will be available from 1.00pm on 30th April.
I have therefore had to contact my broker (Interactive Investor) and ask them to make the necessary appointment. They have responded that they will do so and provide me with access details. Hopefully I will get them in time.
This is another egregious example of how shareholders with shares held in nominee accounts are disadvantaged relative to those whose shares are directly held, with the latter option now becoming increasingly difficult and expensive for individual investors. Of course, those with shares in ISAs and SIPPs have no choice but to hold their shares in nominee accounts.
Readers may be interested in attending the forthcoming free ShareSoc information event on voting at AGMs and how to make your vote count. The event takes place on 10th May at 10am. You can register to attend here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/3116190001784/WN_v6YIZjCAQCaTZNtSEk1eiQ
Mark Bentley, Director, ShareSoc
DISCLOSURE: I hold shares in RCP and AZN