For the first time in France, a listed company has given its shareholders the option to attend and vote remotely at a General Meeting in real time. This major shift in shareholder meeting norms was enabled using a solution co-developed by CACEIS as issuer agent, and partner, Lumi Technologies.
CACEIS has always been at the forefront of innovation in the field of listed and unlisted companies’ general meetings. “As a pioneer in pre-meeting online voting, we contributed to the development and success of the Votaccess platform in 2011, which collects votes before GMs,” says Lionel Barthélémy, Deputy Managing Director of CACEIS Corporate Trust, the group’s subsidiary dedicated to issuer services.
Since then, CACEIS has regularly invested in the digitisation of shareholder meeting procedures, such as electronic signature of attendance lists, adopted in France for the first time in 2017.
CACEIS and Lumi Technologies have continued on the same path together since 2019, working with unlisted companies to fully digitalise processes, including distribution of convening notices to attend meetings, pre-meeting voting, signature of attendance lists and the option to attend and vote at meetings remotely.
As far as on-the-day voting is concerned, CACEIS has worked alongside Lumi Technologies (former Digimedia) for many years. The company specialises in electronic voting using a specific device and/or the internet. CACEIS’ technology partner has developed extensive expertise in online, on-the-day voting in countries where this practice already existed, such as the US, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium. Until now, no listed company in France offered shareholders the ability to vote online and in real time on the day of a General Meeting.
“We were keen to bring the Lumi Technologies solution to our listed company clients in France,” explains Lionel. Amundi, one of CACEIS’ issuer services clients since its IPO in 2015 and already a Votaccess platform user, agreed to participate in this major trial for its virtual general meeting on 10 May. Amundi’s relatively limited public float, mainly comprised of institutional investors that vote remotely in advance, was perfectly suited to a trial of this kind.
CACEIS and Lumi Technologies have accordingly set up an innovative procedure: prior to the meeting, when requesting an admission card, shareholders wishing to vote online on the day of the meeting were asked to provide an email address and mobile phone number. This personal data required to identify shareholders and ensure vote security, was provided either via Votaccess, or by their account holder, who also sent CACEIS a share ownership certificate. The entire procedure was clearly explained in the brochure provided along with the invitation to attend the General Meeting.
All potential sticking points had of course been dealt with beforehand by CACEIS, Lumi Technologies and Amundi, to avoid any legal, regulatory or operational risks.
On the day of the General Meeting, real-time online voting was conducted efficiently and in strict compliance with legal frameworks. “It was primarily individual shareholders who used this new method. The record date applied was the same for all types of shareholder,” clarifies Lionel.
Based on the success of this initial test, CACEIS aims to offer real-time online voting to other clients. In addition to the Lumi Technologies solution, the Group can also offer a solution by MMA/DMI, another of its long-standing electronic voting partners. “We’ll begin by targeting clients with a limited public float, but also those with a strong appetite for process digitisation, such as media or IT companies,” explains Lionel.
CACEIS has taken the final step towards fully digital general meetings. “This represents a major step forward for listed companies and will help make share ownership more accessible. It offers a compelling alternative to in-person voting during the Covid crisis when physical gatherings are restricted. It is also perfectly suited to a context in which an increasing number of regulators, issuers and investors consider ‘hybrid’ meetings the way of the future, combining in-person and remote shareholder attendance on the day of the meeting. In my capacity as person in charge of the French AFTI* Issuers Group, I will share our feedback with the marketplace groups where the definition of standards for the widespread roll-out of hybrid GMs in France is discussed,” states Lionel. One of the issues under discussion will be the standardisation of the record date between physical and online voting.
The remote voting solution offered by CACEIS will undoubtedly be greatly appreciated by individual shareholders having returned to the stock market in recent months, and by players in the securities industry, in order to ensure compliance with the European SRD II Directive (Shareholder Rights Directive II), effective as of September 2020.
* Association Française des Professionnels des Titres (French Association of Securities Professionals)