ShareSoc: a voice for small shareholders
Who represents the interests of individual shareholders in the UK? ShareSoc, the UK Individual Shareholders Society, a not-for-profit organisation created by investors, for investors, does just that.
Individual direct investors currently own around 12% of the stock market and face myriad challenges, from poor shareholder democracy to onerous government regulation and taxation.
In an ever-changing environment, ShareSoc acts as an educational resource and as a sort of ‘trade union’ for investors, running campaigns targeted at problem companies and errant financial intermediaries, organising educational events and regular company seminars and publishing a monthly newsletter with exclusive content for its members.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
A recent example of ShareSoc making a difference is its campaign to set up a shareholder committee within
RBS (RBS). After a long battle with the bank, the society has managed to requisition a special resolution on the agenda for this year’s AGM. The committee, if implemented, would see retail investors gain more influence over the banking group, which also includes the NatWest and Ulster Bank brands. Should shareholders vote in favour of the resolution, RBS would be the first UK company to establish a formal shareholder committee.
ADDRESSING CORPORATE FAILINGS
Many of the recent investment disasters, such as Carillion’s liquidation and the Aviva Preference Shares debacle, could potentially have been predicted and avoided if these companies had adopted Shareholder Committees.
ShareSoc actively lobbied regulators and government on both of these issues and many similar matters, such as the misstatement of accounts at Blancco and Redcentric, on behalf of all individual shareholders.
DEFENDING YOUR RIGHTS
The use of nominee accounts has eroded many of the rights associated with share ownership, and this, in turn, has diminished the influence of company owners over their boards of directors.
ShareSoc has put considerable effort in the last few years into a campaign on ‘shareholder rights’ to tackle the nominee account issue and ensure that all investors can vote at General Meetings and get information from companies in which they are invested.
Anyone unfortunate enough to have an account with the recently failed Beaufort Securities will be painfully aware how the nominee system can also prevent investors from accessing their shares in a timely fashion. ShareSoc aims to remove this problem so that individual investors can continue to trade.
ADDRESSING THE LACK OF INVESTOR EDUCATION
There is a significant absence of investor education in this country, which is at odds with the significance of the UK as a financial market.
To address this issue, ShareSoc has created a body of educational material which it refers to as its Investor Academy. This resource is freely available on the society’s website and comprises a selection of own content, third-party articles, book lists, educational videos and webcasts. This represents an essential toolkit for beginners and experienced investors alike.
ShareSoc also runs Masterclass events, showcasing a mix of investment experts and professionals, highlighting best practice and identifying the usual pitfalls and myths.
ShareSoc is a one member, one vote company incorporated as a company ‘limited by guarantee’ with not-for-profit articles. One of the strengths of being a member-based organisation is that it is easy for members to talk to, and learn from, each other. ShareSoc actively promotes the exchange of views between members and facilitates this through its company events, masterclasses, blog and member forum.
Investment should be enjoyable as well as financially rewarding, and the society actively encourages community spirit and the sharing of knowledge to enrich its membership experience.
Sometimes investors just want information or clarification, which ShareSoc can provide as one of the few independent bodies that can give general advice.
ShareSoc also offers assistance to shareholders when investee companies get into difficulties, misbehave or fail to act in shareholders’ best interests. It is only by joining together that shareholders can efficiently address such matters.
The society offers two tiers of membership - one of which is free.
Full membership costs just £45 per year. For that, members get a regular newsletter packed with exclusive features and articles on investing, including information on investment opportunities. ShareSoc has also negotiated discounts with many providers, including a 25% discount off Stockopedia subscriptions.
Additionally, ShareSoc organises regular meetings and seminars with presentations from engaging speakers and the opportunity to meet managers of investee companies and to network with other investors. Full members benefit from free, priority, access to its seminars.
By joining ShareSoc today, investors can enhance their insight into the investment world while enjoying a vibrant and valuable way to access peer support. Find details of how to join here