If you own shares in any public company, you will soon start receiving materials for the 2021 proxy season. In preparation for upcoming annual meetings, companies will send out a dizzying array of documents. Those might include annual or semiannual reports, as well as proxy statements.
As we saw in 2020, companies are becoming increasingly politicized. It’s now in vogue for CEOs and Boards of Directors to turn their backs on you, the shareholder. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to become an informed shareholder and vote in 2021’s annual meetings.
WHO CAN VOTE?
Whether you own shares directly or contribute to a retirement account, you can vote in a company’s annual meeting. The number of votes you can cast corresponds to the number of shares that you own.
Even if you are a smaller shareholder, your vote matters. The decisions made in annual meetings can have an enormous impact on the success of a company. No matter how many shares you own, that can affect your financial future.
WHAT MATERIALS SHOULD I EXPECT?
You will likely begin to see semiannual reports in your inbox or mailbox in the near future. Semiannual reports contain fund and performance summaries and where to find information regarding proxy voting policies and procedures, shareholder privileges, and other details regarding the portfolio.
30 to 40 days before the scheduled annual meeting, companies will send out proxy materials. These materials contain the proxy statement, annual report, and proxy card or voter instruction form. The proxy statement will cover each item being voted on during the annual meeting and provide information regarding each shareholder proposal.
The most important part of this package is the proxy card or voter instruction form. This card allows for shareholders to submit their vote prior to the annual meeting. You can vote in person, by mail, phone or online (if the company offers this option).
WHY SHOULD I VOTE?
When you receive your proxy statement, it is important to review it and vote to ensure the level-headed investor perspective is present in every annual meeting. Participating as an engaged, informed investor is a relatively small task that will yield big returns for both your future and the long-term success of companies and their employees. Your single vote could have the potential to impact positive change within even the largest and most powerful corporations.
Retail shareholders own 30% of a publicly traded company and Institutional shareholders (banks, organizations, individuals who own a large number of shares, etc.) own the other 70%. In 2019, less than a third of retail shareholders voted their proxy, while 90% of institutional investors cast their ballot.
As an investor, no matter how small, you have a voice and the right to hold that company accountable in making quality business decisions. While it might not seem like a single shareholder’s vote could make much of a wave, even a marginal increase in retail shareholder participation will yield significant results in shaping higher quality, pro-shareholder company policy. So during the 2021 proxy season, make your voice heard.