SINGAPORE (Mar 16): The Investor Relations Professionals Association (Singapore) (IRPAS) is urging the authorities and companies listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) to embrace technology amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the outbreak presenting a challenge for companies to hold their annual general meetings (AGMs), IRPAS is recommending an “active dialogue” on the feasibility of holding virtual AGMs while meeting governance requirements.

“It makes more sense for example to hold virtual AGMs to avoid crowded function rooms that could lead to another cluster infection,” says Harold Woo, president of IRPAS.

“However, to do so calls for a review of the Articles of Association which requires AGMs to be held in a physical location and in Singapore, review of the Practice Guidance of the Code of Corporate Governance on whether AGMs can be held virtually, and finally the issue of having a quorum - can one have a quorum in a virtual AGM?” he adds.

Although SGX has granted all listed companies with an extension till end-June to hold AGMs, IRPAS argues that the outbreak might continue on for longer than expected. 

With businesses having to grapple with curtailed travel plans and cancelled meetings due to the ban of all non-essential travel, IRPAS also recommends that companies consider communicating with clients, customers and investors through alternative means, such as webcast meetings.

The way the association sees it, this enables companies to deliver the same results with lesser costs. 

“While the technology to allow webcast meetings or vote electronically already exists, there are outstanding issues to be addressed such as the authentication of proxies and ensuring the privacy of the webcast is sufficiently robust,” says IRPAS. 

“It will be ideal if the authorities can set some guidelines to provide some assurance to companies. It is inevitable that Covid-19 will bring about a sea change in community behaviour,” it adds.