By Petrina Berry
(Australian Associated Press)
The annual general meeting has entered the 21st century, with a technology start-up holding what it claims was Australia’s and possibly the world’s first virtual AGM.
Omni Market Tide (OMT), backed by poker machines billionaire Bruce Mathieson, has developed a digital platform that allows shareholders to vote in real time remotely.
OMT used its recently developed OmniLoop app to host its own AGM on Monday, with the majority of the publicly listed company’s 1,000 shareholders taking part virtually.
The tech start-up, which launched on the share market nearly a year ago, says the app will drastically reduce the costs associated with AGMs – with expenses ranging from $250,000 to one million dollars for the top 200 ASX companies.
OMT claims its app increases shareholder attendance and engagement at a time AGMs are suffering declining interest, with only five per cent of the top 200 companies now drawing more than 500 shareholders to their AGMs.
OMT managing director Megan Boston said Monday’s virtual AGM was a first for Australia and the world, allowing shareholders from anywhere around the globe to not only live stream the meeting but to also vote and ask questions in real time.
Ms Boston said shareholders from Asia and New Zealand took part in the AGM – which she claimed had 100 times the usual level of shareholder participation – largely because they were able to type questions and submit them through the app.
“It is an intimidating process to get up in a room and ask a question but if you can ask a short sharp question through an app you’re more likely to ask the hard questions and people were more willing to take the risk,” she said.
Ms Boston said the majority of share market trading was now done through mobile devices and that the next logical step was for AGMs to also be digitalised.
In a time when there’s an app for almost anything, Ms Boston said it has taken a bit longer for an app to be developed for AGMs because company leaders did not want to part with tradition.
“There is a lot of inertia there. People don’t like change. When you look at the people who make these decisions, the company secretaries, they are quite risk-averse,” she said.
“People got used to using the old system and there hasn’t been an alternative for people to change.”
OMT has five clients so far – two major signings being Westpac and Telstra.
Both companies are using the app to keep shareholders informed, however are yet to commit to using it during their AGMs later this year.
Ms Boston said it was only a matter of time and many people were keenly watching the success of OMT’s virtual meeting before taking the leap.
Shares in OMT were up 0.6 cents, or 18.2 per cent, to 3.9 cents at 1400 AEST.