Your vote counts: get heard at Lloyds Bank, NatWest and BP AGMs

by Graeme Evans from interactive investor |

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Shareholders have a great opportunity to tell bosses at Lloyds, NatWest and BP what they think.

Seven more FTSE 100 companies have set dates for their Annual General Meetings (AGMs) in the past week, giving shareholders the chance to plan how they will vote or engage with bosses.

They include the meetings for Lloyds Banking Group (LSE:LLOY) and NatWest (LSE:NWG), two gatherings that in normal times would have been among the best attended on the AGM circuit.

The Lloyds AGM is due to be held at the company's Edinburgh offices on 20 May, but, with Covid-19 restrictions still in place, the Halifax owner is for the first time also holding a virtual shareholder engagement event the week before.

NatWest is doing the same a week before its AGM on 28 April.

The Lloyds gathering at 10am on 13 May will give shareholders the opportunity to hear from the board of directors in advance of voting on the AGM resolutions. The timing means those choosing to submit proxy forms by post can do so having heard from key figures at the bank.

As companies are holding AGMs behind closed doors for the second year in a row, the approaches by Lloyds and NatWest represent a welcome step towards ensuring that retail shareholders have the same access to information as institutions prior to a vote.

As always, interactive investor customers, who are among the most engaged in the country, can participate in shareholder votes via their ii accounts.

There’s a Voting Mailbox in your online account (under ‘account’ at the top-right of the page). Here you will receive notifications for all the UK-listed companies you own shares in. Where available, you’ll see links to view an event or place a vote

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) recently reminded companies that meetings are more than for voting, with understanding of decision-making on strategy just as important.

Its research, however, found that 30 out of 202 AGMs held between March and August did not enable any shareholder engagement through Q&As before or during the AGM.

The FRC recommended splitting the traditional AGM into two events, with the first being for presentations, Q&A and consideration of matters in the annual report.

Now that Lloyds and NatWest have adopted this approach, the onus is on their shareholders to ensure they take the opportunity by engaging with the company's boards on 13 May and 21 April respectively and then getting their proxy votes in ahead of the AGMs a week later.

Investors can prepare by reading the annual reports, which in the case of Lloyds has been on its website since 12 March. It contains details of the remuneration package for outgoing CEO Antonio Horta-Osorio and the arrangements for new boss Charlie Nunn, who joins in August.  

The other AGM dates announced in recent days by FTSE 100 companies are Aviva (LSE:AV.) (6 May), Admiral (LSE:ADM) (30 April), Pearson (LSE:PSON) (30 April), HSBC (LSE:HSBA) (28 May) and Unilever (LSE:ULVR)(5 May). In the FTSE 250, those announced this week include ITV (LSE:ITV) (29 April), Travis Perkins (LSE:TPK) (27 April), Plus500 (LSE:PLUS) (4 May)

BP annual report

Oil giant BP (LSE:BP.) has still to reveal its AGM date, but did publish its annual report this week.

It revealed that chief executive Bernard Looney and other executives received no bonuses for 2020 — a year in which the FTSE 100 index company slumped to its first loss in a decade and halved its dividend.

Looney, who took charge in February last year, was paid a basic salary of £1.3 million but, in light of the pandemic, chose to give 20% of his pay to charities dealing with mental health.

Performance shares relating to the 2018-20 period accounted for the rest of his total remuneration of £1.7 million, with Looney achieving 32.5% of his target compared with an average over the previous six cycles of 66%. The report said no alterations to performance measures or targets were made due to the pandemic. 

Looney's predecessor Bob Dudley received remuneration of $13.23 million in 2019, part of $124 million received in total since 2011. His best year was $19.4 million in 2015.

The boss of Royal Dutch Shell (LSE:RDSB), Ben van Beurden, saw his overall pay package fall by 42% to $7 million last year after BP's rival cut its dividend for the first time since the war.

BP's AGM usually takes place in mid-May, with this year's event likely to be a hybrid meeting where shareholders participate via the company's electronic meeting platform.

Last year's AGM saw shareholders overwhelmingly vote in favour of the company's remuneration policy, with 96.6% approval. Looney will see his salary increase by 2.75% to £1.33 million this year, which the report said recognised his work updating BP's strategy to focus more on renewable energy.

All staff have this year been awarded shares vesting in 2025, with senior employees getting share options to be exercised from 2025 onwards and with a 10-year term. 

Shoe Zone (31 March)

Discount retailer Shoe Zone (LSE:SHOE) AGM will reflect upon a year in which the financial strain of Covid-19 left the company with debt on its balance sheet for the first time in 15 years.

The £12 million of borrowings and need to tackle the £10.6 million deficit on its defined benefit pension scheme mean shareholders should not expect a return to dividends before 2025.

With its 427 stores unable to re-open until mid-April at the earliest, the annual report also warns that profitability is extremely unlikely until the financial year to October 2022. The overall loss for the group in 2020 was £14.6 million, despite government assistance via furlough payments, grants and rates relief.

Digital growth has been a bright spot for the company, with a profit contribution of £4.6 million in the last financial year. This takes into account the need for heavy discounting in the first lockdown in order to generate cash and reduce stock levels.

Chief executive Anthony Smith and his brother Charles, who is executive chairman, own more than 50% of the shares in the company, which floated on AIM in May 2014. Anthony received a basic salary of £350,000 in the last financial year while Charles got £224,000, but no bonuses or long-term incentive scheme payments were made to any of the executive team.

These articles are provided for information purposes only.  Occasionally, an opinion about whether to buy or sell a specific investment may be provided by third parties.  The content is not intended to be a personal recommendation to buy or sell any financial instrument or product, or to adopt any investment strategy as it is not provided based on an assessment of your investing knowledge and experience, your financial situation or your investment objectives. The value of your investments, and the income derived from them, may go down as well as up. You may not get back all the money that you invest. The investments referred to in this article may not be suitable for all investors, and if in doubt, an investor should seek advice from a qualified investment adviser.

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