05 May 2020
ISCA CEO, Mr Lee Fook Chiew, was quoted in The Business Times on the question of "Should annual general meetings go virtual even post-pandemic? What's needed to ensure that virtual AGMs uphold the spirit of shareholder engagement and corporate transparency?" This is what he has to share:
COVID-19 has had wider and more profound effects on many aspects of our lives and the economy than previous pandemics and many market events. Some changes are likely to stay at least for a while even beyond the pandemic, like the need for safe physical distancing, especially at events with many participants. At the same time, the changes imposed during this period have provided a good opportunity to prove the efficacy of various technologies and tools, and accelerated their adoption, especially platforms for virtual meetings. Apart from some teething problems which have been addressed, they have proven to be scalable and secured (to acceptable standards). Hence, the post-COVID era may redefine the way AGMs are held. While participants at AGMs will probably still prefer to attend the meetings in person once things return to normalcy, virtual AGMs can cater to shareholders who prefer to avoid crowds or not to travel. They can also provide the means to reach out to a much larger group of shareholders beyond the limits of a physical venue, but still offer the usual arrangements for Q&A and secured voting. Companies may therefore need to hold physical AGMs together with virtual ones. Although the cost of hybrid AGMs will be higher, the enhancement in corporate transparency and ability to engage with a substantially wider shareholder group are invaluable, and will yield long-term benefits. - Lee Fook Chiew, Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA)
This article was first published in "Views From the Top" in The Business Times on 4 May 2020.
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