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Australian Shareholders’ Association (ASA) is preparing for the coming year’s AGMs, with the release of our strategic focus issues for ASX-listed companies.   

This list is a key support to our commitment to holding corporate boards accountable and advocating for retail shareholders.   

The 2024 focus issues were officially launched at the ASA’s Investor Conference in Melbourne on Monday, 20 May, with a panel including Debby Blakey, CEO of Hesta and Chair of ACSI; Jacob Varghese, CEO of Maurice Blackburn; Mike Robey, ASA Victorian Co-Company Monitoring Chair; and Melinder Hunter, General Counsel and Company Secretary of AGL.   

To coincide with these new focus issues, ASA launched its new Investor Sentiment Survey, which canvassed our members on analyst meetings and annual general meetings (AGMs).   

The results will inform our advocacy and company monitoring initiatives.   

Key findings 

448 retail investors participated in the first ASA Investor Sentiment Survey, providing the following valuable feedback:   

Analyst Market Briefings 

  • Notice Period:  76% of respondents want at least a week’s notice for all analyst market briefing webcasts.   
  • Live Access:  80% of respondents desire live access to all analyst market briefing webcasts.   
  • Online Availability:  91% of respondents believe that analyst market briefing webcasts should be made available online for retail shareholders to access at any time.   

AGM Format 

  • Preference for Hybrid Format:  54% of respondents prefer a hybrid AGM format, where both in-person and online participants can vote and ask questions.   

Director Workload 

  • Limited Directorships:  Retail shareholders commented that directors should hold no more than maximum of five director roles if they are to serve their organisations effectively.   

So, what are the 2024 Focus Issues?   

Fair Treatment of Shareholders 

  • Equitable Capital Raisings:  Retail shareholders should receive fair and equitable treatment in all capital raisings.   
  • Communication Preferences:  Companies should respect shareholders’ preferences for postal or electronic distribution of communications.   
  • Hybrid Shareholder Meetings:  Meetings should be held in a hybrid format, enabling both physical and online participation to ensure more voices are heard.  Virtual-only meetings are deemed inadequate.   
  • Analyst Market Briefings:  Retail shareholders should be invited to analyst market briefings, which should be recorded and made available on the company website.   

Building Better Oversight – Directors and Boards 

  • Board Skills Matrix:  Boards should comprise directors with diverse skills necessary to fulfill the company’s strategic plan.  These skills should be communicated in a board skills matrix included in the Annual Report to assist shareholders in making informed voting decisions.   
  • Director Commitment:  Directors should avoid overcommitting to multiple boards, ensuring they have sufficient time and attention for each role.   
  • Cyber and Data Risk Management:  Boards are expected actively to oversee the company’s efforts in managing and communicating cyber and data risks to shareholders, fostering a resilient corporate culture.   

Driving Sustainable Practices and Improving ESG Strategy 

  • ESG Disclosure:  Companies should disclose sufficient sustainability and ESG strategy information for shareholders to make informed investment decisions.  Companies are expected to be on track to meet imminent climate disclosure requirements.   
  • Resource Efficiency and Greenwashing Prevention:  The ASA will monitor companies regarding resource efficiency, prevention of greenwashing, and the impact of remuneration plans on promoting a genuinely sustainable culture.   

Advocating for Transparent and Appropriate Remuneration 

  • Remuneration Transparency:  A company’s remuneration report should be transparent and understandable for retail investors, showing a logical relationship between rewards, financial performance, and corporate governance.   
  • Comparative Analysis:  The ASA will assess the reasonableness of remuneration by comparing it with similar companies.   
  • Long-term Performance Hurdles:  The ASA prefers executive remuneration hurdles that measure long-term performance over at least four years.   

Getting involved for better results 

The ASA’s focus issues for 2024 underscore our dedication to enhancing corporate governance and ensuring that the interests of retail shareholders are adequately represented and protected.   

Through these initiatives, we aim to foster a more equitable and transparent corporate environment for all shareholders.   

We thank those members who responded to the survey and who contributed to the focus issues.   

Contributing to such content, and taking part in upcoming events, helps your Association to review companies and hold boards and executives to account, so that we can continue to shape the landscape of corporate governance and shareholder advocacy.   

We look forward to sharing the results of these efforts from upcoming AGMs. 

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