The pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, said that change is the only constant in life. For many of us, now seems like the perfect time to embrace changes in the boardroom, especially on the technology front.
At midnight on 26 March 2020, South Africa entered a new normal; the world as we knew it changed in the blink of an eye. ‘Social distancing’ and ‘flattening the curve’ became part of our daily vocabulary. A post on social media begged the question: Is COVID-19 really that serious? To which the reply: “Casinos and churches are closed. When heaven and hell agree on something, it’s probably serious.” The ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the economy, society, and business, brings with it the opportunity to adapt.
With AGM season fast approaching, where does this leave South African companies? The Companies Act requires that an AGM be held within at least six months after the company’s financial year-end. At the time of writing this article, no extensions by the regulatory authorities (the JSE, CIPC or SARS) have been announced in relation to AGM requirements.
The good news is that the Companies Act allows for any board or shareholder meeting to be held completely electronically, provided that the electronic communication employed ordinarily enables all persons participating in that meeting to communicate concurrently with each other without any intermediary, and to participate reasonably effectively in the meeting.
COVID-19 has given the 4th industrial revolution a most wanted kick-start, especially in South Africa and the governance space. The JSE announced that they will offer an affordable virtual meeting platform in collaboration with TMS, so that AGMs can be held entirely on a virtual platform. Recently, the AGM for Alexander Forbes was the first AGM of its kind to be held on an electronic platform in South Africa. The platform caters for virtual AGMs and electronic voting and allows participants to connect from any location in the world using smart devices.
Boards and management teams must take advantage of the technology available to them, both to manage and direct through this pandemic, and to ensure shareholder confidence in an ever-changing environment.
It’s an exciting time to experiment with and embrace technology. With our team fully functional on a remote basis, let us help you navigate these changes.