M&S has partnered with interactive investor, the UK’s second largest investment platform for private investors, to launch a first-of-its-kind pilot project which will connect the company directly with thousands of nominee shareholders, encouraging them to participate and vote at its AGM. The pilot is the latest step in the Share Your Voice campaign which aims to overhaul company law to make it easier for individual shareholders who invest in UK plc to have a say in the companies they invest in.
M&S Chairman, Archie Norman, said: “We believe that shareholder democracy matters because in a free enterprise society people need to feel they are informed and have a say in the businesses they own. Nominees make up 40% of the market and investor platforms are growing, so unless we act, the connection between companies and private shareholders will be lost. However, people own their shares, they have a right to have a say and hold their Boards to account”.
Market wide AGM attendance was down around 55% in 2022 and recent research from the Quoted Companies Alliance (QCA) has found that 53% of shareholders didn’t attend AGMs as they were too far away.
M&S has been holding digital AGMs since 2020, with higher participation numbers than previous in-person meetings, demonstrating the power a digital meeting has to drive shareholder engagement. In July 2022, 1,700 individual shareholders engaged with its digital platform vs 561 attendees at its 2019 physical meeting.
This new pilot project aims to increase participation even further. Currently, M&S ranks in the top 50 most-held UK companies on interactive investor (excluding investment trusts). Of these, it is one of just three companies listed outside the FTSE 100.
Richard Wilson, CEO, interactive investor, said:“Investment platforms are now the most popular solution to help people build long-term financial resilience through ISAs, SIPPs and General Investment Accounts. This has brought the UK consumer huge progress in investment choice, service and cost, helping more people be confident they can control their financial future.
“However, with 15% of UK plc directly owned by the public, we have not helped them enough to take the driving seat on what matters to them about how those companies are run. Millions of votes are going to waste, and AGM attendance is close to extinction. That’s bad for shareholder democracy and bad for UK corporate health. We have made it easier for people to use the power of their voice, but we need to do more.
“While platforms have a job to do, we have always said that UK plc needs to step up too. We are delighted to partner with M&S on this pilot project and are thrilled to be the first investment platform to partner with a major plc on a hugely important issue.”