Latest data from Abrdn-owned Interactive Investor (ii), the UK’s second-largest investment platform for private investors, shows a significant jump in voting on AGM shareholder resolutions in the first half of 2022.
The increase comes just months since ii automatically switched on all its customers to its free voting service.
The number of votes processed on interactive investor in H1 2022 was up 48% on H1 2021, with 133,997 votes processed.
Those votes represent only 16% of the AGM decisions ii clients could have acted on.
“This dramatic increase is no happy accident and demonstrates what can be achieved when investment platforms remove barriers and red tape,” said Interactive Investor.
“In November 2021, interactive investor automatically opted in customers to its voting and information service.
“Previously customers had to proactively opt in, and they can still opt out if they wish.”
Interactive Investor CEO Richard Wilson said: “When you remove unnecessary barriers to voting, you help create change.
“And in a world where technology provides simple, time-saving solutions, it’s important we use it.
“The proof is in the pudding.
“Plenty of private investors want to vote, and they are growing in numbers.
“Not all resolutions will spark an interest, but some are impactful, from climate goals, executive pay through to fair treatment of workers.
“But it’s not for us to decide what’s important – investors must make that choice for themselves.
“It’s early days and there’s more to do, but this data shows the potential that private investors can have to affect change.
“And it’s hugely encouraging.”
Interactive Investor added: “The data also shows a significant increase in the percentage of votes used on interactive investor in an environment where too many private investor votes have historically gone to waste.
“Looking at H1 comparisons, the numbers have risen from 6% in 2019, 8% in 2020, 11% in 2021, and 16% in 2022.
“The investment trust sector has long been keen to address the issue of wasted retail votes, given its wide ownership by private investors.
“When few private investors turn out to vote, large institutions can take a disproportionate share of voice – and they might not always have everyone’s best interests at heart.
“That’s one reason why interactive investor does not cherry pick the votes it alerts its customers to.
“An investment trust continuation vote or policy change, for example, could easily go under the radar, but is important.
“So, there is no cherry-picking from us.”
Lee Wild, Head of Equity Strategy, Interactive Investor, said: “Our most-voted companies are the biggest, which is not a huge surprise given their size and profile, but the trend more broadly is very encouraging.
“In fact, it’s great to see private investors voting at these FTSE giants’ AGMs – after all, these meetings are usually the only time a company of a FTSE 100 company’s size and scale ever hears directly from an individual shareholder …
“We will continue to do our bit at ii, but the wider industry needs to meet us where we are.
“We are still a long way away from creating an environment where private investor voting and engagement is the norm, and we need all parties to participate to drive this.
“Let’s not forget that companies, too, have a huge amount more to do in order to properly inform and engage their shareholders.
“Gone are the days, thankfully, where companies can get away with just paying lip-service to stakeholders.
“We’ve seen these companies becoming increasingly challenged on a public stage, and this AGM season has been the perfect example of that.”