Here’s an irony. Link Group last month held a ‘virtual AGM’ for its NZ share registry client Xero. Just over 80 per cent of shareholders ‘attended’ online. But Link is not allowed to do the same for its Australian clients, nor itself.
Xero, the successful cloud-based accounting systems firm from Wellington, NZ, provided a glimpse into the future for financial services and other meetings – whether they be informal or of a statutory nature.
In one of a series of investor presentations in Australia last week, John McMurtrie, Link Group managing director, said his company was in dialogue with ASIC to see whether it could roll out the virtual meetings service for Australian-listed companies. “That’s a real innovation,” he said.
The Xero AGM, in July, was a hybrid whereby 80.4 per cent of the participants – or 320 people – attended online. They joined the meeting from 15 different countries. Furthermore, of those who attended physically, 32 per cent used their ‘mobile vote app’ on their phones to vote at the meeting rather than traditional polling cards. Nearly two-thirds of all votes were either online or via the mobile app.
Matt Vaughan, Xero company secretary and general counsel, said after the meeting: “With Xero’s increasingly global shareholder base, we were really excited to use Link’s technology to increase engagement with our shareholders at our annual meeting.”
Shareholders were able to view the presentations, vote on the resolutions and also ask questions online at the meeting.
McMurtrie said that Link’s added services, including data analytics and the Empirics subsidiary, were now used by 27 super funds, “including quite a number of non-administration clients”.
He said: “Our digital communications business has got a raft of digital enhancements. It is quite clear over time, that paper is being phased out. Members are able to go online to their various devices. So, the concentration on the annual review, for example, in superannuation is starting to come off the boil.”
Link Group last year expanded in New Zealand through the purchase of the administration business of the NZ arm of Aon.
* Greg Bright is publisher of Investor Strategy News (Australia)