CRESTCo said electronic voting levels in 2004 were more than 30 times greater than in 2003, when the CREST service was first launched in the UK.
On average, more than one-third of the capital issued through CREST was voted electronically last year, although several issuers registered voting rates of more than 60%, and one – Egg plc – enjoyed a 71.5% electronic voting rate.
There has also been a significant increase in the number of company meetings announced through the new service. In 2004, 88% of FTSE100 and 41% of FTSE250 issuers announced a total of 273 meetings for which electronic voting was offered. In 2003, by contrast, only 47% of FTSE100 and 10% of FTSE250 companies offered electronic voting to their UK institutional shareholders and just 80 meetings were announced via CRESTCo’s service.
These increases can be attributed partly to the fact that voting service providers, such as ADP-ICS and ISS, are now using the CREST facility to lodge their votes. There has also been a significant increase in direct voting by institutional investors.
First launched in January 2003, CRESTCo’s proxy-voting service was introduced to meet market demand for an efficient means by which shareholders could exercise their voting rights in a straight-through and timely manner. Not least among the perceived benefits was the presence of a clear audit trail, from the registered owner to the issuer’s agent, complete with time stamps and all relevant details of the appointed proxy and instructions to that proxy.
In all, around 85% of UK issued capital is held in secure dematerialized form within the CREST system. According to corporate-governance consultants, PIRC (Pensions Investment Research Consultants), average voting rates for FTSE350 companies across all media is approximately 57%.