How Air Liquide reassigned 1% of their institutional and individual shareholders
Case study: Air Liquide on InvestorInsight
Having a clear and accurate picture of who its shareholders are is important for Air Liquide, a world leader in gases, technologies and services for Industry and Health. And for a good reason: individual shareholders own 35% of its capital, a percentage which exceeds by far that of any of the other companies of the CAC40, the main French stock-market index.
Through the years, Air Liquide has developed a unique and particularly close relationship with all its shareholders, be they individual or institutional.
In particular, Air Liquide has chosen to manage its relationship with its individual shareholders internally through a dedicated Shareholders Services department with 40 full-time employees. As a matter of fact, the Group is the only large issuer in France with such an organisation. This department interacts with its close to 750,000 individual shareholders, while the Investor Relations team focuses on institutional investors in a close relationship with the Shareholders Services department.
The Shareholders Services department fulfils multiple roles:
- It acts as a Custodian for the 123,000 shareholders owning Air Liquide shares under the direct registered form and handles all day-to-day requests for the management of their accounts (opening, closing, buying, selling, processing Corporate Actions).
- It acts as a Registrar for the 304,000 shareholders (incl. the above 123,000) owning their shares under the direct and administered registered form.
- It acts as a Centralising Agent for the nearly 750,000 shareholders (incl. the above 123,000) for all Corporate Actions (Dividend, Free Share allocations) as well as the Annual General Meeting, dealing with all the various interactions required by those operations.
- It also acts as an Issuer for those 750,000 shareholders (incl. the above 123,000) by providing answers to any questions they may have regarding the Group’s activities, perspectives and strategy.
With all the roles the Shareholders Services department has chosen to assume, Air Liquide teams are actively involved in work groups with banks and issuers to reflect on the future of financial markets and back-office securities in France. In particular, they participated in the Transparency Working Group initiated by Euroclear in 2017, which led to the creation of InvestorInsight.
As a user of the former TPI solution, which preceded InvestorInsight, Air Liquide already had a clear view of what it expected from a shareholder identification tool. Also, in its role as Registrar for registered shareholders (individual and institutional), the Shareholders Services department must identify and provide accurate information to the Investor Relations teams.
At the beginning of each year, it is critical for those two teams to get the most granular and accurate picture of the shareholders who own their capital as soon as possible. Such information enables the Group to organise roadshows better, prepare the annual General Meeting, its various communication plans, … These tasks can be time-consuming and tedious, requiring information from multiple intermediaries.
Jérémie Créange-Salvadori, Head of Corporate Operations and Transversal Projects within the Shareholders Services Department, expressed his views on how the product should evolve, particularly in implementing the SRD II directive in France for shareholder identification requests. “Our goal is to have one convenient system that simplifies the complexity of gathering and manipulating large amounts of data and delivers a high identification rate of shareholders.”
“I want to acknowledge the contribution of Euroclear InvestorInsight in helping us achieve our objective”, he added. “The implementation of the SRD II directive played a major role in creating a favourable environment for us to get a clearer view of who are the real final owners of our capital, especially for foreign shareholders, instead of the information being limited to some intermediaries along the chain of custody.”
Euroclear’s assistance was instrumental in achieving this objective by providing a user-friendly tool and ensuring that the team worked diligently to reconcile the various responses received from different levels of the chain of custody.
“As a result,”, Jérémie said, “we reassigned around 1% of our capital from previous financial intermediaries to the real individual shareholders behind those intermediaries. The number of identified individual shareholders living outside of France was multiplied by 10, and we were able to reach out to them and engage them further in the relationship with the Company. This was made possible by the clear and accurate information provided by Euroclear.”
Some of the InvestorInsights product’s most notable benefits for Jérémie was how user-friendly and quickly it is/was updated, almost in real-time. “While we received some training, it was almost not necessary to use the tool effectively. Anyone unfamiliar with IT can easily understand and use it, even if they are using it for the first time. As an issuer, we appreciate the progress made over the years with SRD II and TPI, and we look forward to future improvements. We are confident that InvestorInsight will continue to upgrade to help us tackle the challenges that come our way.”
“The proactive support we received from the InvestorInsight team in reconciling intermediaries’ responses under strict time constraints was an additional benefit to the service provided by Euroclear”