The demise of the proxy vote is near

18 July 2006 Angelo Coppola

Virtual reality comes to the boardroom.

Corporate governance gets a leg up as Computershare gets into the 21st century with mobile technology to get shareholders to vote electronically, thus saving time and perhaps more importantly an audit trail is available to track directors and shareholders decision making.

The technology is not new and there are several players offering similar software, including Opera Telecom, who provide a range of services to TV viewers to vote live for a variety of programmes, in the UK market, via their mobile phones.

The first SA company to use this technology is Sanlam, which used the service at an AGM in May. The average AGM attendance was about 25, and while not the largest it was looking for a way to increase attendance.

The day of the physical AGM may also be numbered as people would rather vote from the comfort of their offices, although initially this technology is to be used only in the physical meeting, as the cost will be an issue.

For example if there are several offices around the world, the offices can be linked via ISDN line, for people to vote from the countries they are working from.

Besides the move to new technology and those attendant hurdles for the less technological savy, the articles of association for any listed business could be a stumbling block, although the mechanism is different the procedure is the same, and it really depends on the chairman of the meeting to make that decision.

There is a manual backup system for those less inclined to the technology, or if the technology should fail.

Note: The product distribution rights are owned in SA by Audience Alive, which is owned by IML, which in turn is owned by Computershare internationally.

The cost is R35 000 per meeting, and the costs will only come down as more companies subscribe to the service.

Editor's thoughts:
* This seems like a good idea, and hopefully will get more shareholders to AGMs where they are needed to activate management and board members into changing their ways
* It is pricey considering the small number of shareholders that attend AGMs.

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