Due to the Covid – 19 pandemic, most institutions are discouraging large gatherings in an attempt to mitigate the effects of the virus. In light of this, the following arrangements are recommended to safeguard our shareholders’ health as well as provide them with the ability to exercise their rights at the Annual General Meeting (AGM):
The first course of action would be:
- Once legislation permits, consider postponing the AGM until a later date, but still within six months of the financial year end (once restrictions have been lifted and it is safe to do so). Discussions should be held with your Registrar/Regulator to facilitate this process.
- Most Credit Unions are in the period of preparing AGMs and audited financial statements. Discussions should be held with your Registrar/Regulator to seek an extension for submission of audited accounts.
- For Credit Unions that already had planned AGMs visit the Force Majeure clause outlined for the Hotel or the proposed Venue. Additionally, negotiate for a later date.
Should the Legislation not allow for the above, the following actions may then be taken into consideration:
- Consider the possibility of virtual or hybrid AGM. Companies offering either an entirely virtual meeting or the ability for shareholders to participate electronically in a hybrid meeting will need to put in place shareholder voting and identification procedures. The GoToMeeting/Zoom app for example is a collaborative communication solution that would allow for over 100 persons to participate in face to face meetings. Alternatively, live streaming via Facebook may also be considered to allow shareholders an opportunity to view and participate in the meetings.
- Directors and Board Secretaries may modify their usual planning for their AGM. A limit may be placed on the number of participants and presentations to only key personnel including the President, Treasurer, General Manager, Supervisory and Credit Committee chairpersons, regulator and Auditors. No external guests will be invited by the Credit Union. The IT administrator may monitor the meeting not allowing anyone to speak or muting all and then ask each to identify themselves and ask their question or all questions are submitted electronically to be answered. (This is dependent on your membership).
- Directors may consider if shareholders who wish to exercise their voting rights, but not attend the meeting physically, can consolidate their attendance by appointing a proxy (if allowable under your Co-operative Societies Act.) Shareholders should ensure that they vote in advance of the meeting by submitting their proxies even if they currently intend to attend. Proxy forms should be available from your local Credit Union.
- Directors may liaise with members in advance of the meeting (notwithstanding that the notice has been issued) in order to canvass the requirement for the meeting to be rescheduled based on the advice available to them in relation to COVID-19.
Similarly, your Confederation is assessing all areas regarding the AGM and will inform all affiliates by end of March 2020.
Our credit union typically hosts 800-900 participants at our physical AGMs. What platforms are available to host and allow participation (Q&A and voting) from such a large group? Additionally are there any guidelines to effectively manage such a large group online?