Citi announced today the successful pilot of a new digital proxy voting platform, ProxymitySM, which directly connects and authenticates the issuer and investor and makes the voting process more efficient, accurate and transparent.
The platform, which is supported by Computershare for registry services, will initially be rolled out in the U.K. market for the 2018 proxy season with plans for additional market expansion later in 2018.
Proxymity uses a core algorithm to streamline the flow of information between intermediaries. It eliminates intermediary cut-off dates ensuring investors have the maximum amount of time to research the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and cast their votes through the platform while enabling issuers to receive votes in real time. It also offers confirmation to the investor that the vote was received and counted at the meeting, providing certainty that their fundamental shareholder right has been upheld.
During the pilot, the Proxymity platform was used by key investors at four Annual General Meetings, including one FTSE100 meeting. Aviva Investors, Legal & General Investment Management, Aberdeen Standard Investments and Robeco were the key investors involved. The platform enabled the issuers to enhance the timeliness and accuracy of meeting notifications and improved voting cut-off dates for investors by up to five days.
"We have been involved in many working groups on the issue of post-meeting vote confirmation over the years and we are pleased to see that progress is being made. Transparency in the proxy voting chain is beneficial for investors and issuers," Doris Ko, ESG Operations Manager at Aviva Investors, said.
Proxymity was conceived and developed through Citi's D10XSM Program, an internal strategic growth model that enables employees to take new business ideas from concept to launch. These employees are coached through a rigorous validation process led by Citi Ventures and supported by Citi's global innovation labs. In this instance, the underlying Proxymity technology was developed at the Citi Innovation Lab in Tel Aviv.
"Proxymity was created by members of our market-leading custody network team who recognized an opportunity to rethink an outdated system, and it was accelerated by Citi's internal innovation efforts to ready it for launch," said Okan Pekin, Citi's Global Head of Prime, Futures and Securities Services. "It reimagines the process and flow of meeting notices and has the potential to disrupt an established market and democratize access for investors whose votes will be enabled by higher efficiency and lower cost."
"We are very interested in creating efficiencies in the proxy voting process, which currently involves multiple parties in a chain working on different position files and platforms," said Paul Conn, President of Computershare's Global Capital Markets division. "With advances in technology and the combined network of both organizations, we are very excited to conclude a successful pilot and look ahead with confidence to extending the deployment of the platform early next year."
Citi and Computershare are open to explore partnerships with forward-thinking issuers, registrars, custodians, vote advisory providers, investors and ESG groups, and look to work alongside regulators to maximize transparency across the corporate voting chain.