February 24, 2024

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Australia Government to Make Virtual AGMs, E-signatures Permanent

Legislation allowing listed companies to conduct online-only shareholder meetings and sign documents electronically permanently could result in savings of up to $4.42 billion over ten years. An exposure draft of the legislation, released by the government on 25 June 2021, seeks to make measures introduced to allow companies to conduct virtual meetings at the height of the pandemic permanent.

The measures – which also permitted companies to sign documents electronically – officially expired in March after the government failed to pass legislation in time to continue the temporary relief. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) was subsequently forced to turn a blind eye to virtual meetings, though electronic signatures are excluded from this ‘no-action’ position.

Under the draft legislation, listed companies would be able to “execute documents electronically”, meaning persons may sign the document or witness the “fixing of the seal” electronically. The government has written into the laws that it will take a “technology-neutral approach” to ensure that any “digital platforms and new technologies that may emerge in the future” can be used.

The legislation will also allow companies to hold physical and hybrid meetings, with “wholly virtual meetings” also to be permitted if written into a company’s constitution (either before or after the reforms take place).

Companies will, however, be expected to give “give members a reasonable opportunity to participate” by using reasonable technology and holding meetings at a reasonable time and place. Any documents relating to meetings, regardless of whether the meeting was conducted virtually, in-person or in hybrid form, will be permitted to be “given electronically and signed electronically”.

The government has estimated that the regulatory changes will save between $404 million and $442 million on average per year over 10 years. Around $20 million of this is expected to flow from sending meeting-related materials electronically, with the remaining gains the result of electronic document execution. The nation’s Treasurer stated that the changes would “provide shareholders with enhanced opportunities to both participate in and scrutinise company meetings”.

Consultation on the legislation will close on 16 July 2021. Electronic or digital signatures are a method of authenticating a person as the source of a digital message and indicates their approval of the information contained in the message.

Digital signatures include:

  • digitised signatures—a scanned handwritten signature inserted as an image; use of signature blocks (e.g., on emails)
  • online forms—Adobe forms; workflow approvals in applications (e.g., timesheets)
  • touch screens—signature on a touch screen using a stylus (e.g., Australia Post courier delivery)
  • digital signatures—use of digital code and encryption technology to verify the contents of a digital document.

Recent research shows that due to the burgeoning requirement for smooth digital transaction management and user authentication, the demand for digital signatures is rising rapidly.

Moreover, the increasing acceptance of online transactions and payment procedures, and the surging digitisation rate are driving the demand for digital signatures. Due to these factors, the global digital signature market size is expected to attain a value of $25,211.3 million in 2030, while the market will advance at a CAGR of 29.2% during 2021–2030.

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped digital signature solution and service providers expand their operations. The growth of the digital signature market increased significantly from 2019 to 2020 and this trend continued from 2020 to 2021 as well. Due to the growing requirement for online transactions and secure connectivity and the rising popularity of the remote working culture, the market is exhibiting huge expansion.

Due to the pandemic, many information technologies (IT) and banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI) companies have taken measures for securing remote contractual, financial, and other associated procedures. Hence, with the surge in the volume of digital transactions, the market is growing rapidly.

PARTNER

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATION

SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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