Bring X-Factor style voting to AGMs
The AGM, sometimes referred to as the “annual geriatrics’ moan” or more commonly “annual general meeting”, is suddenly becoming something of a place to be -an event where scalped big earning chief executives are paraded in front of angry shareholders as penance for years of over-indulgent remuneration amidst falling profits.
It never used to be the case; AGMs used to be a boreathon, where dividend, auditors and executive pay would be silently approved by corporate shareholders who could never be bothered to show up.
And, invariably, they always did approve everything.
The only highlight would be listening to a shrieking single-shareholding prune that had travelled down to London from the outer reaches of Arbroath with the sole agenda of taking issue with say the chief executive of DMGT over the financial wastefulness of the company’s expensive paper stock of its annual report.
The chief executive would never have the gumption or humour to respond to the shrieking woman with something along the lines of “This is the AGM for DMGT, the AGM for PMT is a week Tuesday.”
The AGM is simply too staid for that, but as Trinity Mirror and Aviva lose their chiefs amidst shareholder unrest, isn’t it about time the AGM joined the modern world and dispended with its soporific mix of corporate platitudes, crap sandwiches and Styrofoam cups in favour of social media and X-Factor style re-appointment of directors.
Why not let the FTSE bigwigs take to the stage, microphone in hand, and in say 10 minutes sing for their suppers (re-appointments) in front of the judging panel: the company shareholders.
The bigwigs could take it turns, taking the mic and kicking off with “the reason I should be re-elected is.”… then cite their high and low points this past 12 months and perhaps at a critical juncture – like when they talk of the day the company’s share price rose a record 12%- wiping away a crocodile tear or two.
Once they had finished their auditions, the shareholder panel could vote, saying “Yes, We’ve seen the figures and the company has performed OK in the past 12 months, but on today’s performance you have not convinced us you want it enough.
“Moreover, your audition ran for 12 minutes, two more minutes then allowed, and you being a finance director and a numbers man and all that, we don’t think that is good enough. So thanks, but no thanks.”
If not X-Factor style auditions, then live tweets must be introduced, as the AGM is the one chance in the year investors get the chance to question company bosses, so surely it is futile not to make use of the technology whereby investors who don’t want to schlep down to London or wherever can get their voice across.
For too long, at AGMs, full-time directors and non-executive directors have been silent silhouettes, letting the chief executive and chairman take the plaudits or poo-throwing, depending on the success of the company.
Now is the time to revolutionise the AGM and make it an event that all shareholders will want to attend.