The future of annual general meetings: physical, virtual, or somewhere in between?


During the 2023 AGM (annual general meetings) season, Euronext Securities supported over 425 AGMs ensuring the smooth conduct of the events and providing exceptional shareholder engagement regardless of the format of the meeting (traditional in-person, virtual or hybrid.) Now that the 2023 annual general meeting (AGM) season has ended, our experts look back at the season and see what this year’s experiences tell us about the future of the physical AGM.

Will virtual AGMs win the day?

Bjørn Stendorph Crepaz, Head of Issuance & Issuer Services Euronext Securities, believes there are two basic factors that speak in favour of virtual AGMs, or VGMs (Virtual General Meeting).

The main advantage we hear when it comes to choosing a hybrid or fully virtual solution is accessibility. All investors, regardless of their location or circumstances, have an equal opportunity to attend and participate in the meeting. That is also the explanation that companies, who opted for a VGM this year, gave. And it makes sense that this would be a compelling argument for large companies with an international shareholder base.

There are other factors related to trends in share ownership. “Something else that will have a bearing on how AGMs develop in the future is the demographic shift in share owners. If, as some industry experts believe, the average age of share owners continues to fall, so that we see younger, more tech-savvy generations becoming active investors in the stock market, then we can imagine that this development will further accelerate the push towards fully virtual meetings,” Bjørn Stendorph Crepaz says.

Physical AGMs and the local investor

Whether or not companies opt for a physical AGM also has a lot to do with the company- and local culture. “Many companies still use the AGM as a marketing and branding opportunity,” Marianne Benedict explains. “In Denmark, for example, it’s a part of fostering a strong local investor culture, and is a way for smaller investors to show their commitment to and engagement with the companies they invest in.” For these companies, there is still a feeling that virtual solutions lack the personal feel of the in-person AGM. “It can be difficult to replicate the feeling of a community celebration on a digital platform,” she says.

Hybrid AGMs – the best of both worlds?

Which brings us to the solution that Euronext Securities’ experts highlighted as the way forward at the end of last year’s AGM season: a hybrid solution. “The hybrid model is ideal in that it allows companies and investors flexibility,” says Marianne Benedict, Head of Issuer Services at Euronext Securities Copenhagen. “For professional investors who might have several AGMs to attend during a season, it makes it possible for them to attend more meetings even if they are spread out over a wide geographic area, because they have the option of attending virtually. And companies can maintain the close connection with their local investors who choose to attend in person.

Based on our experience, the only definite conclusion we can draw, according to Marianne Benedict, is that it’s still early days after the pandemic. “What’s clear after this year’s AGM season is that we’re still in a transition phase,” she says. “Pandemic restrictions are behind us, but we still haven’t defined what form the post-pandemic AGM will take.”

According to Pierre-Edouard Borderie, Head of Euronext Corporate Services, a subsidiary of the Euronext Group “companies tend to move more and more towards hybrid and virtual AGMs. In 2022 more than 35 companies chose Company Webcast webinar solution, to broadcast their AGM. This year, already 44 companies have broadcasted their AGM via Company Webcast.”

In Italy, Euronext Securities is a new player, having entered the marketplace just over a year ago with its value-added solution for managing the full lifecycle of general meetings. As Simone Canova, Business Development Manager, Issuers – Euronext Securities Milan explains, the pandemic pushed companies to adopt more flexible options in managing their AGMs and this triggered the government to regulate these options. A temporary pandemic regulation was created, (and has recently been extended to the 2023 AGM season), to allow companies to appoint a Designated Shareholder Representative, thus providing a mechanism for shareholders to be represented and have their voices and votes counted even if absent from the general meeting. This has created a unique opportunity in Italy, where Euronext Securities can be entrusted to act as an intermediary between the company and its shareholders, expanding its duties to include proxy voting, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, and providing expert guidance on corporate governance matters to guarantee transparency and integrity throughout the entire process.

Full GM support – regardless of the format

Euronext Corporate Services recommends that issuers acquire the most accurate mapping of their shareholders prior to the general meeting. This exercise aims to identify who will be present at the AGM, what will be the topics of interest and what voting results can be anticipated.

Whether the 2024 season brings a marked increase in physical meetings, virtual or hybrid, Euronext Securities’ Investor Services team is ready to provide clients with the necessary support.

We’ve worked closely with our clients both before, during and after the pandemic to create flexible AGM services that can be tailored to their specific needs, whether they’re opting for a physical, virtual or hybrid solution,” Marianne Benedict says. “So, whichever format they choose for next year’s AGM season, we’ll be ready.

To learn more about Euronext Securities’ general meeting services, contact your local team [1]

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The 2023 AGM season in numbers

  • AGMs held +425:
  • Highest attendance at a hybrid AGM: +580
  • Highest attendance at a physical AGM: +1,600
  • Proxy instructions processed increased by 10,500 from 2022 to 2023
  • Companies using Company Webcast as their webcast provider: +700

Changes in Danish legislation increase represented capital at AGMs

The 2023 AGM season was also the first after changes to Danish legislation regarding proxy voting went into effect. “This change means that investors*[2]  no longer have to present a power of attorney in connection with exercising their voting rights. The power of attorney must be in place between the investor and the bank/custodian and due to the SRDII implemented rules all custodians in the custody chain have an obligation to process without being presented for a power of attorney” Marianne Benedict explains. “This means that a higher proportion of instructions go through, and the represented capital is higher at this year’s general meetings than last year’s.” For example, during the 2022 AGM season, 44% of proxies were deemed invalid, meaning a loss of 5500 instructions. This year, Euronext Securities Copenhagen has seen an increase in valid voting instructions of 20-60% per AGM. The change in legislation together with further focus on active ownership increased participating proxy capital by 61% increase and total participating capital increased by 20%. 


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 [2]*Only investors who have their holdings via a chain of custodians which is the case for most foreign investors. Domestic investors can exercise their rights directly.
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