The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Shareholde­rs urged to use vote to influence firms

- By Rachel Rickard Straus rachel.rickard@mailonsund­ay.

OLDER investors are leading the way in influencin­g the companies they invest in, according to a new survey by Interactiv­e Investor.

A third of investors aged over 65 are registered to vote at the annual meetings of the companies in which they hold shares, according to a survey of the wealth manager’s customers.

However, only a quarter of its investors aged 55 to 64 are registered – and this number drops again to a fifth of those aged 45 to 54. Younger investors are least likely to vote. Just 5 per cent of 25 to 34-yearolds are registered to vote and only 2 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds.

Millions of ordinary investors have rights over the companies in which they hold shares. They can vote on companies’ environmen­tal policies, for example, or even help rein in excessive pay by voting against remunerati­on proposals.

However, just a handful use the powers they have by voting or attending annual meetings.

This is because many don’t know they have these powers or because the investment platforms through which they hold shares make it hard to wield them. Interactiv­e Investor is encouragin­g customers to use their power as shareholde­rs.

A majority of investment platforms do not widely advertise the fact that customers have the right to vote – and many make it a laborious process, which can easily put investors off.

Cliff Weight, director of investor campaign group ShareSoc, says most investment platforms do not encourage customers to vote because they don’t think there is sufficient demand. But he adds: ‘Until you provide a service, you don’t know if people want it. It’s like if something’s not on the menu, you don’t know if people will order it.’

Shareholde­r votes this year have embarrasse­d several large UK listed companies. BP’s climate targets were put under the microscope by activist investors while AstraZenec­a’s boardroom pay came under fire, resulting in 40 per cent of shareholde­rs voting against executive pay rise proposals.

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