"Increase transparency", "improve communication", "encourage investor participation" - all buzz phrases in the drive to restore confidence in the ethics and governance of UK business. There is also one annual event, which all stakeholders may attend, and which is a valuable opportunity for company communication - the Annual General Meeting (or AGM).
From football clubs to Banks, the AGM of any organisation is often the only platform at which stakeholders are able to see the Board and Chairperson "on stage". The Board sits at the apex of the company, and as such the AGM allows a link between Board and shareholders. As a result the AGM becomes the platform for questions - sometimes contentious. In a review of AGMs, one data analysis illustrates that, not unsurprisingly, remuneration and incentives were THE most contentious issues raised at the 2014 AGMs of UK companies.
Perhaps as a result of what seems like years of press reporting of questionable corporate governance, investors are becoming a lot more active when it comes to participation, particularly at AGMs. UK statistics point at increasingly high attendance at AGMs of UK companies. For organisations large or small, the AGM is a valuable barometer of stakeholder feeling.
Whether raucous, fraught with tension or perfectly peaceful, for all companies the AGM must follow a particular format before, during and after. Good practice here is perhaps a solid starting point for instilling confidence in the company. The Chairperson is at the helm of this event - often not an enviable position. Preparation is key to the smooth running of the AGM and this can be an onerous task for the Chairperson alone. As Company Secretary, we can act as the Chairperson's "right hand man" assisting with AGM Notices, Agenda, attending on the day to take minutes, assisting with overseeing voting, and distributing paperwork afterwards.
No matter what the mood at the AGM, making it as smoothly managed as possible is a positive reflection on a company's attitude towards compliance and governance.