With the end of the financial year, many listed and not-listed companies in Australia will be looking to organise their AGM. Given the current restrictions, virtual AGMs will become the norm, presenting a unique set of challenges and opportunities to better connect with investors and stakeholders.
The pandemic has acted as a catalyst and accelerant for structural changes in the global economy and how it operates. Some of these changes were already underway, while others are relatively new. In key areas such as remote work, online education and tele-health, the shift was necessarily quick.
Embrace the opportunity
Despite the pain of transition and some initial scepticism, businesses soon warmed to the emerging financial benefits. Remote working means reduced expenditure on office space, less time wasted commuting; and paradoxically, a clearer view of which managers and employees are best able to deliver outcomes and display initiative. This epiphany has created an enduring incentive for businesses to ensure the new environment becomes permanent.
A new landscape
Investor engagement has also been transformed. The need to reduce the spread of the virus prompted ASIC to permit the use of virtual AGMs. While a welcome development for many, it is also a fresh risk management challenge for companies still settling into a new way of working.
Trust as a currency
Trust is critical. With everyone playing outside of their comfort zone there is no room for slip-ups. Issuers need to ensure their service provider is a proven quantity. The presence of any ‘technical issues’ can easily be read as a proxy for general competence and diligence elsewhere. Failure to effectively manage stakeholders through the new environment will also be judged harshly.
At the same time, the virtual environment creates opportunities for preparation and variety of delivery which are not achievable in person. Companies need to make the most of these opportunities to present their story in a compelling and seamless way.