How sad: People only remember you when you falter

THAT Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) broke two records by having to postpone its 61st annual general meeting (AGM) – which was supposed to be staged virtually – yesterday (April 15) for something that is not its fault is intriguing but nevertheless pride-bashing to say the least.

The two records are (i) this is the first time in the history of the Malaysian largest banking group that such incident occurred, and (ii) this could could be the first such incident in the virtual AGM scene.

Even more mind boggling is that the protagonist behind the big-time technical glitch is an industry big boy, namely Tricor Investor & Issuing House Services Sdn Bhd.

Tricor Malaysia would now have wished that Maybank is a small-cap company for the consequences would not have been so drastic on its business reputation.

In all fairness, regardless if this is a human error or otherwise, the age-old adage that “man proposes, God disposes” somehow proves soothing to the ears: since the damage has been done – and no matter how irreparable it may seem – let’s learn from it and just move on.

Talking about lesson/s to be learnt from this event, FocusM managed to gauge the views of the Minority Shareholders Watch Group’s (MSWG) CEO Devanesan Evanson who himself has been critical about the staging of virtual AGMs:

During the MCO period, the public listed companies (PLCs) had no choice but to conduct virtual AGMs.

Devanesan Evanson

Under the current conditional movement control order (CMCO) however, PLCs have a choice as to whether to conduct a virtual AGM or a physical AGM (along with the standard operating procedures [SOPs] and other requirements).

The type of AGM will be decided by the board of directors. One key consideration will be the expected number of shareholders who will attend the AGM and of course, cost.

The greater the expected number of shareholders, the more likely for it to be a virtual AGM.

Virtual AGMs are generally not conducive for shareholder activism but they do reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading among the shareholders.

As there is no one right answer as to the choice of an AGM, it would be better to give the benefit of doubt to the board.

MSWG is aware one smaller PLC which will be having its physical AGM in Muar, Johor on April 29.

As most of the shareholders will be outside Johor, there will be a fair bit of inter-state travel along with the requisite police permits for non-Johorean shareholders who wish to attend the AGM.

Presumably, they expect a small number of shareholders and that may be the reason for their board’s choice of a physical AGM.

In the case of the postponement of Maybank’s AGM, it is not an issue of whether it should have been a virtual AGM or a physical AGM.

The board, in its wisdom, has decided that a virtual AGM was in the best interest of all shareholders who wished to attend the AGM given the historic record of shareholder attendances and the risks of COVID-19.

The issue with the postponement of Maybank’s AGM is more about the technical glitches faced by the platform (remote participation and voting facility) provider that caused the AGM to be postponed.

We are unsure as to the nature of the glitches but a question that springs to mind is whether these platform providers have a business continuity plan (BCP) to deal with disruptions in a timely manner.

On another note, there is currently no quality control on the various platform providers who are offering their services to PLCs.

This has resulted in some instances of poor customer (shareholder) experiences. Perhaps, it is timely for some kind of registration or licensing for the platform providers to ensure that they at least meet a minimum standard.– April 16, 2020

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