Millions more individual investors with holdings at DIY investing giant Hargreaves Lansdown will be able to vote and participate in annual general meetings more easily.
Hargreaves Lansdown has partnered with Broadridge to bring online proxy voting to its 1.75million customers, as investors increasingly demand to have a say on ESG, executive pay and other issues.
While HL has always offered a voting service, until now clients had to manually identify relevant shareholder meetings and then phone HL to cast their instructions for manual processing.
The new online service, which follows similar moves by rival platforms eToro, AJ Bell and Interactive Investor, makes the process easier and quicker, according to Hargreaves Lansdown.
The service covers 5,800 tradeable equities – all UK and European shares on the HL platform
From November 2021, Interactive Investor made all its customers able to vote at AGMs as the default setting.
Tom Lee, head of trading proposition at HL, said: ‘Retail investors are taking a keener interest in having the power to influence corporations on important issues such as board diversity, climate change and sustainability.
‘Providing a new digital capability for this self-service system gives retail investors a greater say in the governance of the companies in which they hold shares and the democratisation of markets.’
Companies ask shareholders to vote on things like the board of directors, approving dividends and how the company is run.
The vast majority of UK shareholders would like to attend an AGM but nearly half are excluded because of widespread nominee account share ownership, which is how most investment platforms work.
The new service covers 5,800 tradeable equities, which is all UK and European shares on the HL platform.
However HL still does not allow voting on US holdings. This is because the shares are usually packaged into a vehicle called Crest Depository Interest, which gives exposure to an overseas security.
The US CDIs that are held through Hargreaves do not have voting rights.
Investors need to log in to their account using HL website – the service is not available through the app.
On the website, HL customers can click ‘view shareholder meetings’ and provide a voting instruction through Broadridge.
Votes are placed per account, which means that if investors hold a stock in Isa, Sipp and Fund and Share Account, three separate votes can be placed.
HL clients can also register to attend shareholder meetings using this service.
HL said investors are taking a keener interest in having their say on important issues like climate change, board diversity and sustainability
DIY investing platform eToro was the latest to launch a similar service, also in partnership with Broadridge, in November last year.
Interactive investor and AJ Bell have been allowing clients to cast votes online and book their place on companies’ meetings for longer.
Interactive Investor said it saw a 30 per cent annual increase in the number of votes processed to 210,801 in 2022.
AGM attendance, as measured by the number of unique accounts requesting letters of representation, doubled. But it added that ‘this was from a very low base’ – 720 letters were sent in 2022, up from 359 in 2021, 263 in 2020, and 651 in 2019.
It said: ‘This emphasises the challenge UK PLC and the wider platform industry face if AGMs are to gain broader engagement.’
The desire to have a say on environmental, social and governance issues is also compelling more investors to vote.
Demi Derem, general manager at Broadridge, said: ‘Retail investor ESG requirements have changed.
‘Having a say in how the companies they invest in operate has become a big deal. Subsequently shareholder voting functionality has never been more important.
‘We’re proud to be working with Hargreaves Lansdown, to offer their investors an enhanced proxy voting experience.
‘Increasing retail investor participation is part of our ongoing mission to drive greater shareholder participation and improve overall standards around corporate governance.’
Compare the best DIY investing platforms and stocks & shares Isa
Investing online is simple, cheap and can be done from your computer, tablet or phone at a time and place that suits you.
When it comes to choosing a DIY investing platform, stocks & shares Isa or a general investing account, the range of options might seem overwhelming.
Every provider has a slightly different offering, charging more or less for trading or holding shares and giving access to a different range of stocks, funds and investment trusts.
When weighing up the right one for you, it’s important to to look at the service that it offers, along with administration charges and dealing fees, plus any other extra costs.
To help you compare investment accounts, we’ve crunched the facts and pulled together a comprehensive guide to choosing the best and cheapest investing account for you.
We highlight the main players in the table below but would advise doing your own research and considering the points in our full guide linked here.
>> This is Money’s full guide to the best investing platforms and Isas
Platforms featured below are independently selected by This is Money’s specialist journalists. If you open an account using links which have an asterisk, This is Money will earn an affiliate commission. We do not allow this to affect our editorial independence.
|Admin charge||Charges notes||Fund dealing||Standard share, trust, ETF dealing||Regular investing||Dividend reinvestment|
|AJ Bell||0.25%||Max £3.50 per month for shares, trusts, ETFs.||£1.50||£9.95||£1.50||£1.50 per deal||More details|
|Bestinvest*||0.40% (0.2% for ready made portfolios)||Account fee cut to 0.2% for ready made investments||Free||£4.95||Free for funds||Free for income funds||More details|
|Charles Stanley Direct||0.35%||No platform fee on shares if a trade in that month and annual max of £240||Free||£11.50||n/a||n/a||More details|
|Fidelity*||0.35% on funds||£45 fee up to £7,500. Max £45 per year for shares, trusts, ETFs||Free||£10||Free funds £1.50 shares, trusts ETFs||£1.50||More details|
|Hargreaves Lansdown*||0.45%||Capped at £45 for shares, trusts, ETFs||Free||£11.95||£1.50||1% (£1 min, £10 max)||More details|
|Interactive Investor*||£9.99 per month or £12.99 for Sipp||£5.99 per month back in trading credit||£5.99||£5.99||Free||£0.99||More details|
|iWeb||£100 one-off||£5||£5||n/a||2%, max £5||More details|
|Freetrade*||Free for standard account £3 month for Isa||Freetrade Plus with more investments is £9.99/month inc. Isa fee||No funds||Free||n/a||n/a||More details|
|Vanguard||0.15%||Only Vanguard funds||Free||Free only Vanguard ETFs||Free||n/a||More details|
|(Source: ThisisMoney.co.uk June 2022. Admin charges quoted annually, may be monthly or quarterly)