Shareholder engagement and attendance at Annual General Meetings (AGMs) worldwide reached a record high in the first half of 2022, according to new data from global specialist in delivering compliant shareholder and member AGMs, Lumi.

Analysing over 4,700 meetings, the data shows the average number of shareholders per meeting more than doubled in the first half of this year, a 134% increase compared to the same period last year. Engagement at AGMs has also reached record levels with the average number of messages being sent in meetings growing 25% compared to the same period last year.

Virtual and hybrid meetings continue to be the most popular and engaging format with just under two-thirds (65%) of AGMs run virtually, 22% hybrid and only 15% took place completely in-person. 

“The shareholder voice is louder than ever and we’re seeing the highest levels of participation and engagement we’ve ever seen. In particular, we’re pleased to see more retail shareholders and a wider demographic of younger, engaged investors interested in attending AGMs,” Lumi director of shareholder engagement, Kerry Leighton-Bailey said.  

“One of the key drivers for this new group is that they increasingly want their voices heard on issues such as ESG, pay or diversity at AGMs. The last few years has seen a rise in socially conscious and environmentally minded shareholders – now over one-quarter of retail shareholders say they bought shares in companies because they believed in or cared about them, rather than looking for a quick return on investment.

“To meet the new demands of an engaged shareholder group and the questions they have all year round, many organisations are also thinking beyond the AGM to IR events. This provides an engaged group multiple opportunities to have their voices heard throughout the year and can also enhance voting outcomes, thanks to a better perception of transparency and a sense of personal connection.

“Another key driver for increased levels of attendance and engagement is the flexibility of hybrid and online AGMs. Many shareholders might have been excluded from AGMs in the past by the meeting location, the time of day they’re held or even accessibility issues. Once you take away the barriers of how people get there, we’re seeing AGMs open up to a wider demographic that is keen to participate.”

Despite the increase in engagement and attendance, Leighton-Bailey believes a huge problem remains in the industry – making sure everyone who owns shares is able to access the AGM.

“Some investment platforms are making it easier for shareholders to vote by proxy, but it can still be incredibly difficult to navigate this with the vast majority of shareholders not realising that they can’t easily attend. There is still significant work needed to simplify the chains of complexity that stand between the underlying owner and the holding company, and until then vast numbers of shareholders will continue to be cut out of attending meetings, no matter what the format,” she concluded.