Thera Prins - EQ’s CEO of UK Shareholder Services - gave a warm welcome and a quick review of the last year. Global events and developments, both within and outside of EQ, were contextualised. Significantly, all product development pieces that were noted in 2022’s UKSS conference, had been delivered; EQ Shareplans App, EQ Insight, Complaints handling development, Shareview activation development, EQ Boost and Certificates on demand.
Thera then shared a short film about EQ’s ESG positioning.
The capital markets landscape and London as a listing destination – what is 2024 likely to bring?
Presented by EQ’s morning keynote speaker: Tom Attenborough – Head of International Business Development, London Stock Exchange.
Tom Attenborough’s presentation refocussed the importance of London as a listing destination. The city remains the number one exchange in Europe, with $17.9bn raised in London – from IPOs and in 2023, in the year-to-date. That’s 2.1 times the capital raised in the Euronext exchange, Amsterdam, which raised $8.4bn. Globally, the UK remains the third most important global exchange, outside of the US and China.
Tom confirmed there had been a lower level of IPOs over the last two years. He suggested many companies have been “sitting on their hands”, waiting for a better time to list. Yet, he and the LSEG (London Stock Exchange Group) see green shoots, with bank Request for Proposal applications now increasing. He sees this as boding well for the longer short-term horizon; suggesting applications of today will manifest in a more buoyant market in around 18 months from now.
LSEG is working hard to harness innovation to “make London the most vibrant place to raise capital and meet investors”. The presentation detailed the developments at LSEG and how products and services can aid businesses at different stages of their listing journey. With significant focus on the needs of organisations leading up to IPO.
The aim is to “create seamless connectivity between private and public markets.” Tom noted: “They [private and public markets] need something in the middle to help each other.” LSEG sees itself as a well-placed conduit to help with this. Tom explained the need for an expansion of the retail offering plus the need to look at innovations beyond the current formats. It is only with innovation that we can remain competitive.
The role of the stock exchange is then, in this context, about convening those who have capital, with those who need capital. LSEG asks “why limit ambition to the listed environment?”.
Noting that 2023 has been a year for regulation, unlike any he has seen before, Tom said: “It’s an increasingly progressive UK regulatory landscape.” Upcoming regulatory reviews include: The UK Investment Research Review, Accelerated Settlement Taskforce, Digitisation taskforce, Wholesale Markets Review (further stages), New wholesale market venue, ARGA (Audit Regulator), Global Standard for Sustainability Reporting (ISSB).
Traversing all of this, is the Capital Markets Industry Taskforce (CMIT). Launched in July 2022, the taskforce’s objectives are to stimulate industry engagement to ensure that the UK’s capital markets serve those who seek capital and those who have capital to invest, support the UK economy, and strengthen its role as a global financial centre.
Tom anticipates the forthcoming autumn statement from the Chancellor, there is how we look at Pension Fund Reform and how the FCA is proposing simplified listing rules.
In summary, Tom Attenborough sees things for what they currently are in the London listings market. There are challenges in the present and near-future. He does, however, see the green shoots of positive change and ultimately believes confidence is self-fulfilling. Good reasons for us all to keep calm and carry on.
Sharing the secrets of a dynamic approach to engaging a changing workforce
The success of a share plan is underpinned by how you engage with employees. Our panel in this breakout session shared their knowledge and experience in effectively bringing plans to life and successfully engaging employees, regardless of their location.
In this session, insights into employee habits and digital usage were interwoven with the compelling creative developments in this area. EQ’s own Shareplans App has helped to significantly increase employee engagement and levels of scheme participation. A captivating use case of the EQ Shareplans App was presented by Jonathan Sturman - Executive Remuneration & Share Plans Manager - from Kier. A further example of successful implementation of the app, for easyJet, was also given.
- Dominic Harrison, Director of Business Development, Equiniti
- Natasha MacLeod, Head of Brand & Creative, Equiniti
- Jonathan Sturman, Executive Remuneration & Share Plans Manager, Kier
Managing Risk and ESG in an economic downturn: Communicating effectively to attract and retain investors.
EQ Advisory’s Client Director, Madeleine Cordes, chaired our diverse panel of industry experts, to provide attendees with an interesting and stimulating discussion on current themes of managing emerging risks and ESG in a recession.
The key takeaway from the session, and of paramount importance, is the need to understand your audiences’ ESG interests, to communicate effectively with them. The consensus amongst the panel was that ESG doesn’t stop in a downturn. Relevant and accurate communication of your ESG strategy and actions are a must for any listed company.
- Adam Green, Chief Risk Officer, EQ
- Jenni Fulton, Chief Growth Officer and Partner, Emperor.works
- Jennifer Walmsley, Partner at Dentons Global Advisors
- Roger Lewis, Head of Responsible Investment, Downing LLP.
- Mark Robinson, Head of Strategic Accounts, RD:IR
The drive to digital.
In this break-out session, senior EQ representatives discussed EQ’s current strategies in digital development. They detailed the drive to increase the number of shareholders with an online presence and the aim to increase electronic communications sign ups. Also in the frame is the application of Webchat and WhatsApp for business.
Internally refining business structures, EQ is taking a product-led and agile approach to transformation. This will allow smoother delivery of current and future product developments including the overarching drive for digitation.
For issuers, digitisation is cost saving and works towards environmental credentials too. Darren Charles – EQ’s Director of Customer Experience - stated that the “channel shift” to “digital-first” allows customer experience staff greater time to assist with vulnerable customers and to work on more complex cases. Darren re-iterated that there are currently no plans to remove existing customer communication channels.
It was a lively discussion. Many in the audience saw digitisation as critical for business efficiency and as a catalyst for positive environmental behaviour change. At the same time, many saw the need to continue supporting vulnerable and digitally excluded customers. A careful balance is key.
- Darren Charles, Director of Customer Experience, EQ
- Guy Brodie, Head of Product Governance and Control, EQ
- Mathew Clarke, Transformation and Digital Director, EQ
The Dormant Assets Scheme, in practice
In this compelling session, we heard from the Reclaim Fund Ltd and members of the Dormant Assets Expansion Board on their practical vision for participation in the expanded Dormant Assets Scheme.
The session gave a great explanation as to what the Dormant Asset Scheme is. The Dormant Assets Scheme aims to “unlock the value of accounts whose owners cannot be traced for good causes, whilst guaranteeing that owners, or their beneficiaries, can reclaim the value of their money at any time in the future”. It’s an industry-led scheme that is backed both by government and the FCA. It’s a flagship example of how companies can amplify their social impact through a common purpose.
The Scheme will soon be able to accept Securities assets. These will include:
Proceeds of, or distributions from, dormant shares:
Shares, or distributions from shares, in public limited companies traded on a UK-regulated market or UK multilateral trading facility. And:
Unclaimed proceeds from corporate actions:
Proceeds from corporate actions, such as takeovers or mergers.
The Scheme is keen to engage with any companies that are considering participation and they welcome you to reach out to make contact.
- Adrian Smith OBE, CEO, Reclaim Fund Ltd
- Helen Boyd, COO, Reclaim Fund Ltd
- Steve Banfield, Industry Director, EQ
Are you ready! Hot topics for issuers with all employee and tax advantaged share plans
With tax, economic and social changes impacting employee share plans, our panel explored the key topics being discussed amongst issuers. The session covered why these changes matter and what you and your employees need to know. Our expert panel shared their experience, provided insights, and passed on their top tips. A lot of detail was discussed in this session. Headline topics included:
- Recent tax changes impacting share plans (Capital Gains Tax and Dividend Tax).
- Planning for key share plan tasks.
- The importance of financial education.
- Reintroduction of SAYE bonus rates.
- Changes impacting international plans.
- What’s next with the Call for Evidence for SAYE and SIP.
- Gill Macari, Senior Reward Manager, Lloyds Banking Group
- Jennifer Rudman, Industry Director, Employee Share Plans, EQ
- Jeremy Edwards, Partner, Baker & McKenzie LLP
- Nigel Youds, Deputy Company Secretary, Drax
- Sarah Long, Head of New Business, Wealth at Work
Trends in executive remuneration
This session brought together experts in the field of executive remuneration who explored the key issues and trends in executive compensation. They discussed current principles of executive remuneration and looked at how discretionary share plans are designed to fit in with corporate strategies.
Our panel of experts provided insights on the various corporate governance guides, codes, and legislation to be aware of, to design and deliver an effective executive share plan.
- Ian Cox, Managing Director - Head of Share Plan Services, EQ
- Andrew Ninian, Director, Stewardship, Risk and Tax, The Investment Association
- Katie Kenny, Partner, Deloitte
- Suzannah Crookes, Legal Director, Tapestry Compliance
- Anna Watch, Senior Manager Corporate Governance, Legal, Regulatory & CoSec, BT
Demystifying AI: Trends, challenges, and opportunities
Presented by EQ’s afternoon keynote speaker: Priya Lakhani OBE
Priya Lakhani OBE gave a deep insight into her background and her journey to becoming a key UK strategic mind in AI. Her point was to demonstrate the potential for everyone to understand AI. She gave the message that we can all have some control of, and benefit from, this world-changing digital development. Through self-initiated education, we, and our children, can become more aware of its uses and applications.
Priya brought to life the current uses of AI; from medical support – the ability to predict the probability of tumours from scans, through the algorithms that determine the upcoming content in your news feed, to the ability to locate wanted criminals through shared images on Facebook. All are fascinating applications. More than this Priya regards that, for UK businesses to stay relevant in the global market, organisations need to be adapting to AI usage now.
Working as an advisor to the UK government, Priya sees the UK’s great potential in shaping AI-enabled business. Now independent of Europe, the government can consider the UK’s own unique standing in this area, with the potential for the country to become a global leader.
Regulation will, of course, need much discussion. Priya noted guidelines will likely be a combined result of consultations via all governing bodies such as: the FCA, Ofcom, Ofwat etc.
But the time is now, and Priya encouraged organisations to take a grass-roots approach to AI, encouraging self-learning in the principles of it. She gave the audience a quick 101 on aspects of AI. She then recommended each member of staff, in each organisation, to consider how they could positively improve their effectiveness by using AI technology.
It was digital food for thought and Priya’s end message was a serious one. If we don’t want to be disrupted by AI, are we yet ready to become part of the disruption?
Until next time…
The day was a chance to catch-up with relationship managers, clients, collaborators, industry experts and like-minded people. Insights shared, and conversations had, EQ successfully covered the hot topics impacting UK PLCs and their stakeholders.
A big thank you to everyone who spoke and attended. The audio - and slides - of several sessions can be found here.