End of financial year considerations
Investing | 5 MINUTE READ
Australians are active investors. The results of the most recent ASX Australian Investor Study showed Australians are more likely to do their own research when making investment decisions than to use a professional adviser. The same survey suggested 60% of Australian adults hold investments outside of their institutional superannuation fund, and 31% of Australian adults hold listed shares1. If Australians like to be in control of their own investments, then why do so few Australian securityholders vote at General Meetings – whether they’re Annual General Meetings (AGMs) or Extraordinary General Meetings (EGMs)?
Link Market Services (Link) is Cromwell’s securities registry provider. Link’s most recent AGM Snapshot (2019 Meetings)2 showed that for ASX200 companies, the percentage of securityholders lodging a vote at the AGM was 5.60%. However, the percentage of voting issued capital for the same period was 73.41%, demonstrating the larger securityholders such as institutional investors are the ones who typically participate in the voting. What these numbers also suggest is that ‘mum and dad’ securityholders, those same securityholders who have done the hard yards to earn the money and research their investment decisions, don’t often participate in the ongoing decision making of their investments.
When you own securities in a listed company, you are putting your faith in the Board and management of that company to look after the future growth and income of your investment. As one of the owners of the company, you have the chance to vote on resolutions put forward at your company’s General Meeting.
An AGM of a listed company is a formal, compulsory meeting at which the company’s Board of Directors and owners (securityholders) meet to discuss matters relating to the operation and performance of the company over the prior year, and for the Board of Directors to present and discuss direction and strategy for the upcoming year.
The AGM will include a securityholder vote on important company matters, such as Director elections or re-elections and the appointment of the auditor. Link’s AGM Snapshot (2019 Meetings) reported that 94.29% of companies in the ASX200 who use their registry services conducted a poll at their AGM. In line with good governance, at Cromwell’s AGM in 2019, all resolutions were decided on a poll (rather than by a show of hands).
In addition to a vote, any General Meeting provides a forum for securityholders to ask questions or to provide feedback to the Board. Securityholder questions can facilitate important discussions and can clarify direction or decisions for all securityholders when addressed at the General Meeting.
The General Meeting is therefore an important event for securityholders, as it gives the owners of the company the chance to participate in decision making.
From time to time, an EGM may be called so that securityholders can vote on a matter during the year (rather than later in the year at the AGM). Like the AGM, an EGM gives the owners of the company (securityholders) the opportunity to participate in decision making.
Cromwell’s 2019 AGM voter participation:
Only 22% of securityholders voted; 78% of securityholders did not vote.
81.1% of securities voted; 18.9% of securities not voted.
The ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations (4th edition) note that “Meetings of security holders are an important forum for two-way communication between a listed entity and its security holders”3. If you opt not to vote at General Meetings, you forgo the opportunity to participate in the decision making for your company.
Further, institutional or wholesale investors may not necessarily have objectives that align with your own reasons for holding a security. If ‘mum and dad’ securityholders and smaller securityholders leave the responsibility of voting to the institutional securityholders (as evidenced by the 5.60% securityholder participation rate reported by Link), the outcome may not reflect their views.
Securityholders don’t necessarily have to attend the General Meeting to participate. If you choose not to attend, the company will provide opportunities to lodge a proxy form and submit questions prior to the meeting.
The first and most important step is to make sure your details are up to date with the registry. Have you changed address since you first held the securities? Would you prefer Notices of Meeting to come to you by email? Make sure you provide any changes to your contact details to the securities registry. Link Market Services is Cromwell Property Group’s registry and you can contact them by phone on +61 1300 550 841 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.linkmarketservices.com.au.
In the lead up to a General Meeting, you will receive a Notice of Meeting which will include the details of the physical meeting, an explanation of the items of business and a formal personalised proxy form with which to vote. If you don’t plan to attend the meeting, you can simply complete the proxy form and return it before the due date.
Most companies will also offer online proxy appointment, which makes it even easier to participate. Look for a link on the Notice of Meeting or call the company directly for more information.
A General Meeting is your opportunity to participate in the decision making for your company.
At the General Meeting, you have the opportunity to ask questions or make comments on the management of the company.
If you cannot attend the General Meeting in person, simply appoint a proxy to attend and speak on your behalf.