A Swiss tech firm, Sherpany stated on Thursday, March 5, 2020, that the use of online voting for annual shareholder meetings (AGMs) of several companies has surged as the investors hesitated to travel and join large gathering due to the possibility of coronavirus spread.
Many annual meetings of the companies got canceled since several governments stepped up to impose travel restrictions as a precaution measure to avoid virus infection of their citizens.
Cancelation of AGMs in Switzerland
In a measure to contain coronavirus, Switzerland had announced to temporarily ban events with more than 1,000 people gathering last week. The latest announcement of the Swiss government has made difficult situations for those companies that have arranged to hold their business meeting in this month. Several Swiss-based headquartered companies across diverse industries have either postponed their meetings or closely determining the situation to decide about their business meetings.
It was reported that Bell Food Group, a Swiss leading distributor of meat products to supermarkets, has called off its AGMs which was scheduled on March 17 while the two companies based on food and beverage, Orior and Hypothekarbank Lenzburg have also delayed their events which were due in this month.
Other Swiss companies such as engineering group ABB and insurer Swiss Life have yet to decide their meetings and claimed that they were closely monitoring the situation. Meanwhile, Zurich Insurance has recently advised its shareholders to vote by proxy and stay away from its AGM.
Haeckermann, referring to the Swiss ban on large gatherings, stated, “There is a big question mark about what you do with an AGM if you expect more than 1,000 people to take part.” He further added, “This is not just true for Swiss blue-chip companies but also many of the smaller ones who have a large retail shareholder base.”
Online Voting for AGMs
Voting via secure online platforms has emerged a popular means for the company’s meeting and decision; the demand for online voting services providers including Lumi, POLYAS and Simply Voting witnessed growing their business over some weeks.
The Swiss company, which counts Swiss giants Novartis, Nestle, and Zurich Insurance among its 300 clients worldwide, provides a secure internet platform for the shareholders to vote on motions before AGMs. Sherpany, the company which presently employs 110 people working via a licensing model, charges companies according to how many company’s shareholders use its platform for online voting.
Haeckerman said that several company boards and executives have increased using Sherpany’s remote meeting platform this year. Sherpany’s Chief Executive, Tobias Haeckermann told Reuters, “We have had a big increase in usage so far, and the AGM season is only just beginning.”
Haeckermann, who is also one of three founders of the company which was set up in 2011, declared, “At this year’s Novartis AGM, we saw the number of votes being sent through our system increase by 42% compared to last year.” Meanwhile, he reflected a view, “We don’t know if coronavirus is the only factor behind this, but it is helping.”
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