South Africa's central securities depository Strate is to implement blockchain-based e-voting technology from Nasdaq to surmount the administrative hurdles facing shareholders and corporations in conducting Annual General Meetings.
Strate is taking technology that was first implemented in late 2015 as a proof-of-conept at Nasdaq's Estonian subsidiary. The PoC relied on smart contract technology from Chain to implement the voting functionality while piggy-backing off Estonia's e-Residency platform - a digital authentication service used by both Estonian residents and those with business interests in the country to access government services - to identify shareholders and then record votes on a private blockchain.
Tanya Knowles, managing executive of Fractal Solutions, a division of Strate says: "One needs to understand that the environment at the moment is very administratively intensive, which means there are many inefficiencies and risks associated with it. The solution aims to service our clients' needs across the market from transfer secretaries to issuers, custodians, asset managers and those holding shares in listed companies. Given that it is an end-to-end solution - from the time a meeting is announced and all the way through the voting process to the publishing of results - it means that all stakeholders will truly benefit within the process."
Strate's interest in the applicability of distributed ledger technology to proxy voting is long-standing. The South African depository is a member of an international CSD Working Group - alongside depositories from Russia, Switzerland, Sweden, Chile, Argentina and UAE - that has developed a model for an international e-proxy voting product embedded with the relevant ISO 20022 standard.
Proxy voting is viewed as a post-trade business process that would benefit from the introduction of a DLT-based approach capable of aiding transparency, guaranteeing finality and removing complexity for shareholders wanting to exercise their vote.