Re-Tooling your IR and Governance Tool-Kits
How we communicate with each other, investors, and consumers is rapidly changing
With 2017 proxy season fast upon us, now is the perfect time to review what resources you have in your tool kit to help you manage your annual meeting process more efficiently and more effectively. In this article John Dunn, Senior Vice President, Sales at Broadridge, walks through some of the ways Broadridge will be partnering with clients this year.
Q: Technology is changing the way companies connect with their shareholders; are you seeing a similar impact to the Annual Meeting of Shareholders?
JD: We have seen Virtual Shareholder Meeting (VSM) adoption continue to increase. In 2016 nearly twice as many of our clients chose to implement a VSM as the prior year – the majority using an audio only format. This shift has gained increasing support from the Boards of Directors who consider VSMs to allow for more shareholders to attend the meeting, while eliminating issues of travel and security. Unlike a traditional webcast, a VSM provides the unique ability to validate shareholders upon meeting entry, enabling them to vote and ask questions. Better yet, a VSM eliminates much of the administrative burden of a physical meeting, such as checking people in.
Q: With shareholder activism on the rise, what other tools help issuers engage the
JD: According to our analysis, hundreds of proposals in 2016 were won or lost by a narrow margin. Understandably our clients want to stay ahead of a close call situation which has led to an increased demand for real-time, actionable shareholder data. Our Daily Vote Insights dashboard enables clients to monitor voting activity across each investor type on a daily basis, so they can keep executives and board members apprised of how institutional and retail shareholders are voting, understand the source of any unfavorable voting, and benchmark against prior year. Further, deeper shareholder analysis can enable companies to identify opportunities to engage unvoted shareholders with more responsive delivery methods, as well as take advantage of low-cost options to boost retail engagement.
Q: Knowing that printed communications can also be an effective way to engage shareholders, are there new ways issuers can leverage this channel?
JD: Enhanced Packaging is an easy and effective way to increase your shareowner engagement throughout the annual meeting campaign. Enhanced Packaging optimizes your printed communications, and can be used to increase retail voting, promote new products and events, and increase brand awareness. In 2016 we conducted year-over-year testing of issuers using enhanced packaging versus those who did not. Issuers using Enhanced Packaging saw up to 30% increase in accounts voted, 10% increase in shares voted, and a doubling of the voting rate on reminder mailings. As a transfer agent, we have worked with clients to use Enhanced Packaging as an effective, new tool in highlighting escheatment risk and assist investors who want to avoid the escheatment trap. As an example, one of our clients, with a large retail investor population, was able to use our shareholder analytics to identify those shareholders who were at risk of escheatment. They were able to selectively enhance their annual meeting mailing with Enhanced Packaging to highlight and communicate this escheatment risk, and enable their shareholders to take action to avoid the trap.
Q: How are clients meeting market demands for more timely communications and a better shareholder experience?
JD: How we communicate with each other, investors, and consumers is rapidly changing. As a transfer agent, our clients continue to look to us for ways to meet this new demand and leverage new technology to make the process more efficient. While call centers remain a critical point of contact, more clients are adding proactive alerting and smart messaging services into the mix. Using this technology a company can be actively engaged during the dividend and vote process; they can ensure shareholders receive automatic reminders if they haven’t cashed a dividend or voted, and provide timely updates directly to the executive team and the board when they do.
We are also seeing more companies use video to communicate information. A video message from the CEO, or a new product showcase for example can be displayed on their VSM user interface, on a branded shareholder portal or online voting page to further improve the user experience.
Q: Any final thoughts for companies preparing for the 2017 proxy season?
JD: Our guiding principle is to make the shareholder management and communication process easier. A lot of this efficiency is delivered through better tools, systems and technology. But at the end of the day it’s our people that help us deliver on this commitment. Each of our clients has a dedicated relationship manager paired with a dedicated salesperson. They work closely with our clients to offer unique expertise and insights and ensure every client makes the most of the solutions available to them.
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