I am looking forward to the RBS Shareholder Event on Monday 31 July in London. RBS had dropped regular shareholder briefings, but, following our shareholder committee campaign, have now reinstated these meetings. Perhaps more than just a co-incidence? The Chairman mentioned the forthcoming events in London and Edinburgh in his AGM speech.
Co Sec Aileen Taylor told me the event is well subscribed and will be well attended.
I think that not all shareholders were invited to attend. I did not receive an invitation, so simply wrote off to the Registrar and asked to attend. It remains to be seen how they chose to invite people, how representative the sample is and whether there is demand for more events.
I hope we will get an update on their legal battles and potential costs. It seems good news that the RBoS Action Group claims about the rights issue have been settled, but the big case in the US is still ongoing. A sum of the parts valuation would give RBS a much higher value than the market ascribes it, unless one gives a very large value to the future settlement costs.
I am also worried how the KPIs in the remuneration incentives reflect the settlement costs of the legal cases. I would like to know who in RBS is leading the charge to minimise costs to shareholders of these cases.
RBS have mailed shareholders, on 26 June, about this event. This is a chance for individual shareholders to listen to and engage with RBS.
It is not just RBS that is experimenting with shareholder events. Notably in 2016 Marks & Spencer trialled its first Private Shareholder Panel. The objective was “to give our private shareholders additional access and information, as is provided to our major institutional shareholders. The candour and insights provided by these panel discussions were helpful in ensuring we were listening to this important stakeholder group. The success of these trial panels led to the formal launch of our Private Shareholder Panel, which will form an active part of our stakeholder engagement programme.” The M&S committee may be the first in the UK and hopefully others will follow. It will remain to be seen whether companies adopt the M&S model or give the committee powers such as reporting back to shareholders on its activities and its views on the company’s proposals.
A key issue is going to be whether the shareholder committee is developed by M&S into a forum for giving shareholders oversight of things like directors’ remuneration, corporate governance, strategy and perhaps nominations. The risk is that it becomes a much more limited forum for M&S to receive market feedback on store formats, customer service and product range. There is nothing wrong with M&S (and others) setting up this sort of forum and it may well be very beneficial. However, it may not be what shareholder committees are meant to be all about. We shall be watching it with interest!