New app connects retail shareholders to the AGM

Jun 11, 2013
<p>MyShares covers annual general meetings of more than 600 London-listed firms</p>

A new smartphone and tablet app designed to encourage more retail shareholders to vote at annual general meetings has been launched by proxy solicitation firm Proxy Census.

The MyShares app – which is available from the Apple App Store or Google Play – pulls together data from Manifest, a proxy voting agency, on more than 600 firms, allowing users to search for companies they own, select firms as ‘favorites’ and receive updates on upcoming meetings.

‘What we’ve seen over the last couple of years is a discrepancy between the information being made available to institutional investors and what’s being made available to retail investors,’ explains Miguel Carrasco, managing director at Proxy Census.

‘Institutional investors have access to various databases – Bloomberg, Reuters,’ he adds. ‘They get sent proxy advisory reports so they’re very up to speed on what’s going on when it comes to the annual general meeting itself, whereas retail investors are very rarely informed that an AGM is actually taking place, and we thought, well there’s a space there for us to get in there and help the retail side of the shareholder component take their voting rights seriously.’

MyShares UK listed company information
Source: MyShares app, Proxy Census. Click for a larger image

Each listing includes company information, the date, time and location of the firm’s AGM – including a map – as well as details on the type of meeting that will be held and the agenda. Meeting data is then fed through to the app as it’s issued, keeping retail shareholders up to date. For example, users can view companies’ own AGM notices as pdfs within the app itself.

MyShares UK listed company information
Source: MyShares app, Proxy Census. Click for a larger image

Users will then receive a second notification when analysis from Manifest has been made available, offering a breakdown of any contentious issues, for an additional £4.99. ‘What we’re basically doing is giving the retail investors a very high level of information insight as to how or which of the items may be contentious – pretty much what the institutional investor would receive from ISS or Glass Lewis or any other of the proxy advisory firms – at a fraction of the cost,’ says Carrasco.

Carrasco adds that MyShares is essentially an ‘information notification system,’ allowing listed companies, issuer or shareholder associations to send information to Proxy Census, where it can then be passed on through the app.

This information stream can flow both ways as well, he adds, with a built-in support section, allowing investors to contact Proxy Census with any queries they might have regarding their voting rights. ‘Effectively we are taking on part of the role of the IR department and helping the IR department deal with issues around their AGMs,’ he says.

Finally, MyShares also allows users to keep abreast of dividend payments with a built-in calculator to work out how much they will receive for each share, and in total based on how many shares they own.

MyShares UK dividend information
Source: MyShares app, Proxy Census. Click for a larger image

The UK app, which went live on May 23, is not in fact the first release of MyShares. A version designed for the Italian market – and used as a tester for the UK app, according to Carrasco – was released around six weeks prior, with around 1,000 downloads to date, he explains.

He says that feedback has been positive, especially from shareholder associations in the UK, and although the app is clearly very comprehensive, there’s still more to come, with a calendar set to be launched showing impending AGM for the next 15-30 days.

‘If you look at it from the point of view of a retail investor [with] three or four different holdings, they can go and download an app from three or four different companies – if they have an app of course because a lot of companies still don’t have mobile communication on their IR website. This app has everything bundled into one solution.’

‘We’re not in any way trying to solicit retail investors to vote in any way,’ stresses Carrasco, who points out that while retail investors might be less likely to vote in an AGM, they often have the most to lose if their shares don’t perform, since retail investors tend to be investing their own savings. ‘What we’re trying to do here is give retail investors an opportunity to express their voting rights, make a difference, tell the company how they feel.’

At present, the app costs £3.99 for the Apple version, with detailed reports from Manifest charged additionally. The Google Play release is only 99p though, since the variety of devices running the operating system makes it difficult for Proxy Census to predict exactly how the Google Play app will operate on each one, explains Carrasco.

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