Jimmy Choo's virtual AGM: Tech firm gives inside story
In an effort to increase its investor access, Jimmy Choo, a footwear and accessory label, hosted a virtual AGM earlier this year. The company was supported by EQS Group, an international technology provider for digital investor relations, which provided a live presentation and an additional teleconference. Ania Wotjus, director of EQS Group spoke to IR Magazine about its work with the luxury brand.
Why did Jimmy Choo decide to host the AGM this year?
Jimmy Choo was looking to increase investor access to its AGM, encouraging shareholder engagement and giving all investors the opportunity to participate regardless of location. In addition, it was looking at reducing the cost of setting up an AGM, including the potential cost savings with regard to hiring a venue and gathering all the board in one physical location. Jimmy Choo felt that fully digitizing the process would enable it to achieve this.
What was the response from the investment community?
The AGM was well received by the investment community. There is an appetite among institutional investors and shareholders for a higher level of digital interaction with the companies they invest in so the virtual AGM not only helped promote engagement, but also negated the need for investors to travel across the globe to attend the AGM.
The virtual AGM had more attendees than the company’s previous ‘in-person’ annual meetings. Do you know where these extra numbers came from and why more people logged on?
It comes down to accessibility. The investment community was able to take part in the virtual AGM without having to travel to a physical location. People could interact with the event virtually with teleconference and Q&A facilities provided by EQS Group alongside proxy voting managed through an app provided by Lumi. Technology defines how our habits change: shareholders are getting ‘younger’ and online meetings are simply more convenient.
In practical terms, what is the process for setting up a virtual AGM?
The process has to mirror all the requirements of a physical AGM but in electronic form: attendance, presentations, Q&A and voting. It has to be straightforward to use, making the process as seamless as possible for the investment community.
To follow the meeting you need webcasting and teleconference facilities, which provide the presentation materials and facilitate a live Q&A session whereby shareholders can ask questions directly to the board. Alongside this you need an AGM mobile app to allow shareholders to submit questions and vote on the resolutions being put to the meeting.
It is very important that only registered shareholders can attend the event and ask questions so we implemented a verification process whereby a teleconference operator liaises with us directly to verify the identity of shareholders.
These are the main requirements but, of course, you could include a lot of other useful features to optimize the result and give more value to shareholders. For Jimmy Choo, for example, we provided a replay to the participants and different statistical analysis to monitor the success of the event.
What are the benefits and potential drawbacks?
The key benefit of a virtual AGM is an increase in attendance by the shareholders. Giving all investors the opportunity to participate regardless of location makes the event convenient for everyone. And digital access has a cost-saving potential.
As for drawbacks, there will always be members of the investment community that don’t like change and would prefer to attend an AGM at a physical location. But it is our experience from all our markets that people are more and more interested in digital conferences.
We believe virtual access to AGMs will be the future: increasing numbers of shareholders will be looking for a higher level of digital interaction with the companies they invest in due to convenience. This is why the need for professional digital investor relations is growing. We will continue to monitor developments in this area and to support companies facing the challenges of the digital world.
What is the cost of doing something like this?
It depends on the set-up: the number of participants, the functionality required, the level of support needed in the run-up to and during the event. But audio webcasting and teleconferencing facilities are extremely cost-effective and virtual meetings provide significant cost and time savings in comparison to physical meetings.
Finally, what are your three top tips for IROs looking to do this for the first time?
- Understand your shareholder base and its requirements and consider your articles of association, which need to conform to a virtual participation. It may be a good first move to provide both physical and virtual access to your AGM.
- Spend time investigating partners. Robust, tried-and-tested technology combined with great customer service are key to a successful event so that you as an IRO can focus on the content. This was the first virtual AGM in the UK ever, but we at EQS have managed virtual AGMs in other countries before and gained experience we could offer Jimmy Choo.
- Practice makes perfect. When running any event with multiple providers, rehearsals are vital to making sure events run as smoothly as possible. Make sure the senior board is involved in these rehearsals so that directors know what to do on the live event. Here, too, the experience of your partners is a success factor.