Revolts by shareholders over company pay and board appointments seem to have become more prevalent this year.
Last month Royal Mail experienced the second biggest shareholder uprising in modern times, when 70 per cent rejected the pay package of new boss Rico Back.
It was an embarrassing revolt that sent the postal-service firm back to the drawing board.
In April more than 48 per cent of shareholders at housebuilder Persimmon shouted down a £110million pay package for chief executive Jeff Fairburn, which ended up being substantially reduced.
More than a third of Cineworld shareholders voted against the pay of boss Moshe Greidinger in May.
Last month 34.2 per cent of BT investors shook their heads at the £2.3million golden goodbye given to outgoing chief executive Gavin Patterson.
In most major rebellions, it is the weighty institutional investors who make a difference despite millions of ordinary shareholders having a right to vote.
And in smaller companies, where individual investors combined sometimes own more than half of the company, there is still a sad lack of engagement.
The reality is that the modern way shares are held is through investment platforms, where it can be baffling, or sometimes impossible, to lodge a vote.
Cliff Weight, a director of Sharesoc which helps individual investors negotiate the stock market, said: ‘Only 6 per cent of retail shareholders vote. Why? Because it is not easy.’
This week, trade body the Association of Investment Companies (AIC) published information on how normal shareholders who invest though a platform can weigh in on company decisions.
Because the platform is technically named as the shareholder, the actual investor may receive little information from the company that they are ploughing their money into – and hear even less on how to actually engage with that company.
People power: In April more than 48 per cent of shareholders at housebuilder Persimmon shouted down a £110m pay package for chief executive Jeff Fairburn
Of the ten platforms surveyed, the AIC found that only seven allow shareholders to vote on a routine basis. Two did not, and one was in the process of building the technology to support voting.
There is huge variation in how far each platform goes to connect the end-investor and the firm they’re invested in.
AJ Bell, which runs the Investcentre platform, will always notify investors about issues that could ‘potentially have a significant change on a customer’s shareholding’.
At Bestinvest, the platform run by Tilney Group, there is no option for online voting – shareholders can only vote if they specifically ask to.
Bestinvest will only actively communicate with shareholders where there is a notable corporate action.
Many of the platforms have said there is simply no desire on investors’ part to vote in the ‘boring’ normal AGMs.
Hygiene-products business Tristel is taking matters into its own hands, creating presentations for normal shareholders alongside its institutional investor roadshows.
Sharesoc is proposing that all platforms create a designated account for their customers, and their shares are voted in line with Sharesoc policy as the default.
Investors can opt-out of this on specific issues if they do not agree. But by acting as a collective, Sharesoc thinks individual investors will together be able to make their voices heard.