As shareholders, retail investors can help shape a public company’s operations across a range of measures that correspond to their values and risk profile, including:
- environment, social, and governance (ESG) policies;
- supply chain decisions;
- diversity, equity, and inclusion programs;
- climate change approach;
- Board appointments;
- and more.
Change often results from actions initiated by large institutional investors, but retail investors also play a role. Well-informed investors can advance their positions and make their voices heard if they choose to do so.
Here are nine ways you can play a more active role as an investor.
1. Read Public Company Disclosure Documents
A public company is obligated to provide investors with important information under what is called continuous disclosure. Simply put, companies must provide investors with information in a timely manner that enables investors to make informed decisions related to their investments.
Key continuous disclosure documents include:
- annual and quarterly financial statements;
- management’s discussion and analysis (MD&A);
- annual information form (AIF).
Companies must also disclose critical information related to key events – such as mergers and acquisitions – and senior executive changes, via press releases.
Disclosure documents and press releases are available on the public company’s website(s) and through the database at SEDAR, the System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval.
2. Listen to Investor Conference Calls
Publicly traded companies often hold quarterly and annual calls that are open to investors and analysts. These calls can help analysts and investors better understand company strategy, performance, and expectations. Investors may hear management respond to analyst questions, which can probe into a company’s issues or opportunities. Companies may hold investor calls related to key events.
In addition, many companies present at industry and investment conferences. To find out when and where your publicly traded company will present, see the company’s investor website or follow them on social media. For those who cannot listen live, these presentations and calls may be recorded and archived on the company’s website, or by the organization holding the investment conference.
3. Attend Investor Days
An investor day (or “analyst day”) is a meeting open to analysts, investors and media where public company CEOs, CFOs and other senior executives present in front of an audience. During investor day, executives provide an update on the company’s health, vision, culture and business strategy. After the presentations, investors and analysts may ask questions. Many companies hold investor days when they launch significant initiatives, new products or services, or revise strategic direction.
To see if your listed company will be holding an investor day, see their website or contact their investor relations team.
4. Leverage Investor Relations (IR) Professionals
Publicly traded companies may employ professionals dedicated to interacting with investors and providing them with the information required to stay informed. These Investor Relations – often shortened to IR – executives are available to answer your questions and listen to your concerns. Contact them via phone or email addresses listed on corporate websites.
5. Review Corporate and Investor Websites
A listed company’s corporate and investor websites can provide a great deal of important data for investors looking to invest in companies that reflect their values. Most websites include the following:
- Continuous disclosure documents
- Company mission, purpose and values
- News releases related to disclosure and upcoming events, such as investor days, conferences and annual general meetings
- Basic investor information, including fact sheets and Q&A
- Reports on key and trending topics such as sustainability; diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and ESG
In addition, many publicly traded companies have email newsletters to keep investors up to date.
6. Ask Your Registered Advisor for Analyst Reports
For investors working with registered investment dealers, analyst reports provide up-to-date information on the listed company, share price targets, business strategy, competitive environment, risks, and opportunities. Ask your advisor to forward relevant reports to you. In addition, the financial press often provides summaries of these reports, and they can be found through online searches.
Many online financial sites provide comments on publicly traded companies. It’s important to review reports and commentary critically, as authors may be compensated by the company.
7. Do Your Own Research
While online sources should be reviewed with caution and information confirmed through reliable sources, online sources may provide valuable insights:
- Set up online search alerts through your web browser. Relevant links are delivered to your email inbox.
- Sign up to receive decisions, orders, alerts, and more from the BCSC.
- Use the BCSC’s Investment Caution List to check for potential unqualified investments and the Disciplined List to see if the company, or any senior management, has ever been sanctioned by the BCSC. Be sure to check other relevant jurisdictions as well.
- Verify information from online investment sites and bulletin boards by doing independent research.
- Review relevant non-governmental organization (NGO) websites. With greater attention now being paid to climate change, DE&I, and social justice issues, NGO campaigns can have material impacts on listed companies.
- Familiarize yourself with the industry you are interested in by finding and reading general information about it. Trade magazines and periodicals are often online or in print.
- Search the company and its competition. Stock exchanges often have company profiles about who they list, though this information is likely provided by the company.
- Sign up for newsletters or updates from companies you invest in, or are considering. Do the same with its competition.
- Search a company’s senior management to see what relevant skills and experience they have, and consider comparing them with their competition.
Learn more about how to research public companies.
8. Show Up for the AGM
As a shareholder, you are entitled to vote on significant corporate issues at the annual general meeting (AGM) – even if you can’t attend in person. Prior to the AGM, a publicly listed company will prepare an information circular for shareholders. The information circular, which can have other titles such as the management proxy circular, provides financial data and informs shareholders of:
- how to attend the AGM (and whether it will be virtual or in-person, or both);
- which corporate items and shareholder resolutions will be voted on at the meeting;
- how shareholders can vote (in person and by proxy), and
- how shareholders can ask questions.
At the AGM, a corporation will obtain shareholder input through votes on key items. These resolutions have traditionally included electing a board of directors, appointing an auditor, and executive compensation.
9. Vote on ESG, Climate, Gender, and Ethnic Representation, and More
Shareholders are becoming more active and proposing more shareholder resolutions. While these resolutions are not binding, they are subject to voting and can influence corporate policies.
In recent years, more shareholder resolutions have addressed important topics such as climate change, DE&I, and social justice issues. The number of shareholder resolutions may rise at publicly traded companies in coming years due to increased demand for these topics to be addressed.
Today, retail investors have ample opportunity to become well-informed and vote on a myriad of topics, including shareholder resolutions.
Report a Concern
If you have any concerns about a person or company offering an investment opportunity, please contact BCSC Inquiries at 604-899-6854 or 1-800-373-6393 or through e-mail at [email protected]. You can also file a complaint or submit a tip anonymously using the BCSC’s online complaint form.
InvestRight.org is the British Columbia Securities Commission’s investor education website. Subscribe to receive email updates from BCSC InvestRight.