Ince: South Africa’s Most Experienced Virtual AGM Solutions Provider Continues to Deliver
Updated: Jul 21
The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has forced businesses to rethink, not only the way they do business but also, how they engage with stakeholders and practice good corporate governance. The AGM is one of the most important events in the business calendar. Unfortunately, it's not business as usual, with the country having gone into a lockdown period since March 26th.
Fortunately, Ince is on the front foot and has been prepared for a shift into the use of digital tools to foster and enhance communications between entities and their various stakeholders. In fact, Ince held the first hybrid online and physical annual general meeting (AGM) for Sasol's BEE Share Scheme - Sasol Khanyisa - in 2013, using its iMeeting platform. Other Ince iMeeting clients include the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), MTN Zakhele Futhi, Halls Investments and the Legal Practice Council.
Ince's iMeeting is an interactive, virtual platform that facilitates shareholder attendance at a live AGM. Paired with the iProxy tool, it takes the process of submitting proxy voting forms into the digital space. The platform is a fully homegrown South African solution and has helped various B-BBEE share schemes conduct their AGM's over the years, where traditionally obtaining quorum was a major challenge.
Attendees can simply logon, view a streaming webcast, have a live interactive forum with the speaker and subsequently vote on resolutions providing that they have not already cast a proxy vote on the iProxy platform. The iMeeting solution has benefits for both the board and shareholders alike. Due to the virtual, easily accessible nature of the iMeeting platform, attendance levels are likely to increase. The solution also enables the board to have a greater sense of shareholder sentiment.
SAICA's meetings have been totally electronic with a live webcast of the proceedings from 2016 onwards. All voting at their AGM or Special General Meetings (SGM) can only be done using Ince's iMeeting platform. iMeeting has facilitated SAICA's AGMs for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 with an SGM in 2018 and 2019.
Votes placed within an iMeeting session are sent together with those lodged through our iProxy solution to those tallying the votes for an efficient, seamless voting process.
iMeeting has been endorsed by the Listings Department of the JSE and Ince has been added to the Critical Suppliers List of the JSE. As the President has announced, the JSE is one of the critical institutions that will remain open for business. Ince has the systems and infrastructure in place to support the JSE and its stakeholders during the lockdown period.
South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) (2016 - 2019)
The client reported a year-on-year increase in proxy votes over the years it has been making use of the iProxy voting tool. Between 2016 and 2017, the organisation saw a 26% increase in voter participation. The level of engagement grew a further 29% between 2017 and 2018. In 2019, voter participation grew by 34.6%. With the iProxy platform customised to SAICA's needs, an impactful benefit for the client was achieved.
MTN Zakhele Futhi's 2019 proxy voting exercise using these tools was a great success and the iProxy voting platforms were praised by the client as the turnout improved from 28 paper-based proxies at their previous AGM to 3 121 votes cast online and via USSD. A total of 51 308 USSD and 262 630 online votes were placed on the opening day of the one-month pre-AGM voting period.
Sasol Khanyisa (2013 - 2019)
Shareholder participation and engagement has increased over the years that the iProxy tool has been used by the client. In 2013, the company received 99 paper proxies, compared with 1 184 online and USSD votes placed. In 2018, 12 votes were placed via paper proxy, compared with 986 USSD and online votes. In 2019, 96.91% proxies were lodged electronically, leaving only 3.09% paper proxies. The company has seen a 35% increase in shareholder engagement, a feat that would not have been possible without the implementation of the iProxy voting tool.
With so many conferences and non-deal roadshows being cancelled, companies should rather take advantage of online presentations, webcasts, and virtual voting platforms to interact with existing and potential shareholders. Many investor conferences that shifted from in-person to virtual formats have been very well attended.
Ince is committed to creating an inclusive, participatory investment environment to ensure that South African investors' prospects are not hampered by unfamiliarity, a lack of knowledge or guidance. That's why at Ince we have created platforms such as iMeeting (as well as iProxy) for the sharing of information that might be required to empower passive (and non-) shareholders, by providing a tool to allow them to take a more active role in pursuit of their own wealth ambitions.
This article was first published on www.inceconnect.co.za on 3 April 2020