If you had invested in equities of individual companies and units in real estate investment trusts (REITs) and held them in the Central Depository (CDP), or through your CPF investment account (CPF-IA) and/or supplementary retirement scheme (SRS) account, you would have received notices of annual general meeting (AGM), examples of which are shown in the picture below (Fig. 1).
If you search enough on the internet, you would have realised, at least for local listed companies and REITs, a lot of AGMs were held in the month of April. With the lifting of COVID restrictions, an announcement in December last year by the authorities stated that the option of having online official meetings, which included AGMs, would cease from 1 July 20231. From the slew of AGM notice letters that had been sent out, many companies and REITs were bringing back physical AGMs.
Being a shareholder and/or unitholder, you have the right to attend the AGM to vote on matters, businesses and resolutions as detailed in the AGM notice, ask questions and clarify issues with the board of directors and senior management, and depending on the company/REIT, to enjoy refreshments provided or get some cash/shopping mall vouchers (or probably nothing at all).
I had attended a few AGMs before COVID, and it was really an eye-opener. After verifying your identity at the entrance of the venue (usually a ballroom in a hotel or a function room in a convention centre), you would be issued a voting device that looked like an old Nokia feature phone, with number buttons and a monochrome screen. This was used to vote on the resolutions. After the resolutions were passed, the session would open to the shareholders/unitholders for question time.
The AGM was one of the few moments where you share a (ball/function) room with the elites of the business world. You could say that you had sat opposite with so-and-so to discuss on important matters (though so-and-so was likely seated on a stage in front and you were just one of possibly tens or hundreds of shareholders/unitholders present).
After everything was over, and if there were refreshments, this was where the fun begins. Depending on how the food was laid out, the shareholders’/unitholders’ (hereafter referred to as “crowd”) behaviour ranged from orderly to chaos. The most memorable incident that I had witnessed was a food item being cleared out by the crowd in less than 10 seconds after it was being replenished (the refreshments were teatime food items by the way).
AGMs are usually held during office hours, so working folks (like myself) would have to take leave to attend, which I do once in a while as a break from my work. Still, the crowd size is relatively big especially in AGMs of larger companies and REITs.
If your shares/units are not held in CDP/CPF-IA/SRS, i.e., through custodian, do enquire with the brokerage that held your shares/units and ask if they could arrange for your AGM attendance.
1 – Ang, Rosalind. Temporary option for companies to hold official meetings online will stop from July 2023. The Straits Times. 16 Dec 2022. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/companies-can-no-longer-hold-official-meetings-online-from-july-2023-minlaw (accessed 2 Apr 2023)