NCR’s virtual shareholders meeting has real-world implications

Original Story by Maria Saporta on WABE

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When NCR ─ a Fortune 500 company based in Gwinnett County ─ held its annual meeting last Wednesday, the only way one could participate was online.

The NCR Corp. headquarters building, in Dayton, Ohio is shown Tuesday, June 2, 2009. NCR is expected to announce that it will move the headquarters operations to Duluth, Georgia.  (AP Photo/Dayton Daily News, Ron Alvey)

The NCR Corp. headquarters building, in Dayton, Ohio is shown Tuesday, June 2, 2009. NCR is expected to announce that it will move the headquarters operations to Duluth, Georgia. (AP Photo/Dayton Daily News, Ron Alvey)

It’s the first time in Georgia’s history a major public company held a virtual annual meeting.

So NCR shareholders were unable to interact with the executives and directors running their company. The meeting was only available online in audio ─ not even video ─ and not one shareholder asked a question.

Not surprising. An online-only meeting is an unfriendly forum for shareholders.

It leaves the impression that a company has something to hide. Or that a CEO does not want to meet shareholders face-to-face.

It’s not a good idea folks.

Nationally, more companies are choosing to go virtual with their annual meetings. Last year, 53 companies went to online-only annual meetings compared to 21 in 2011. Companies say they are cheaper to hold and more shareholders can participate.

But there has been a backlash.

Angry shareholders forced Intel to abandon its online-only annual meeting format in 2009 so it went back to a “hybrid” meeting.

People can show up in person or can participate online in a hybrid meeting. More than 500 U.S. companies are holding hybrid annual meetings, including several in Atlanta like Coca-Cola.

I am one of those strange people who enjoys going to annual meetings because they tell me so much about a company.

It is an opportunity for me to see the diversity on a company’s corporate board and its top management. They let me see how executives interact with shareholders, employees and the public. In short, they tell me a great deal about a company’s culture.

And that cannot be captured virtually.

Annual meetings also keep executives on their toes. Remember when Home Depot CEO Robert Nardelli held an annual meeting in 2006 with no directors present. He was gone from Home Depot a few months later.

NCR is moving its corporate headquarters from Gwinnett County to Midtown. It is considering options to sell part or all of the company.

At next year’s annual meeting, NCR should welcome its shareholders both online and in person.

It’s the smart thing to do.

4 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    “NCR is moving its corporate headquarters from Gwinnett County to Midtown. It is considering options to sell part or all of the company.”
    NCR is a client and this sort of muddled thinking is one of the reasons the company is a shadow of its former self. When they sell all or part of the company, their new headquarters will be all or partially empty.Report

    Reply
  2. atlman says:

    Burroughston Broch

    OR it could be that the company formerly known as NATIONAL CASH REGISTER has found its legacy business obsoleted by changing technology and is struggling to stay relevant while trying to compete against younger companies that are a lot better at the newer technology than they are. In other words, the same problem being experienced by IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Sony, HP, Dell, Texas Instruments, General Electric, Nokia etc. Microsoft is reduced to giving away for free the same software that they were charging hundreds of dollars for a single user license 5 years ago, just so they won’t lose brand visibility. Intel meanwhile is selling their mobile device chips for less than it costs to make them in a desperate bid to get people to actually use them. But at least Microsoft and Intel are still around. Polaroid, RCA, Motorola, Zenith, Sun Microsystems, Hayes, Silicon Graphics, U.S. Robotics, Scientific Atlanta and most of the other U.S. electronics hardware companies are gone, with their brand names in many cases assumed by foreign companies. Eastman Kodak is still around, but barely, and their latest idea is to use what is left of their brand name to hawk cheap camera-centric smartphones that they won’t even manufacture (they are just going to put their sticker on devices that foreign companies will actually build). 

    In other words, if you are an American tech hardware company named anything other than Apple, you are likely facing hard times for legitimate market and business reasons that have very little to do with your sneering, and you yourself would be hard pressed to do anything about were you running those companies yourself.Report

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  3. atlman says:

    Burroughston Broch

    NCR is just one very good company that this rapidly and drastically changing tech has hammered, and there are going to be a lot more in the next 10 years. And no, for the most part it won’t be due to “muddled thinking.”Report

    Reply
  4. Burroughston Broch says:

    atlman Burroughston Broch  NCR has been hammered by its own bad decisions and muddled thinking since the end of WWII. It’s not only a recent occurrence.
    If you want a litany of their many faux pas, talk to an older resident of Dayton, Ohio.Report

    Reply

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