Embrace technology to rejuvenate AGMs

It seems that annual general meetings (AGM) have become less about making significant and strategic decisions, and more about lavish meals for shareholders ("How to deter shareholders who eat-and-run at AGMs" by Mr Mano Sabnani; Tuesday).

This has led to debate on whether the AGM, in its current form or, indeed, any form, performs a useful role.

There is a need to modernise the AGM such that it, again, becomes a meaningful forum for shareholders and companies alike.

Embracing technology is a key factor.

Arguably, many more shareholders would participate in AGMs if they were held over the Internet.

Implementing online voting would replace the necessity of appointing a proxy and give shareholders direct ownership of their votes.

To maintain accountability of management via questions and comments, shareholders can be allowed to submit their written questions for the board to answer before the AGM.

This would also help busy shareholders save time.

Company annual reports should also be revamped, taking into account content that should and should not be included, as well as technological developments.

In this way, companies will be able to focus on serious investors and not eat-and-run shareholders.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'Embrace technology to rejuvenate AGMs'. Print Edition | Subscribe