THE region's biggest stockbroking and financial services firm is giving private shareholders the opportunity to have their say from anywhere in the world.

Wise Speke is giving its clients an online vote in forthcoming annual meetings - saving them a trip to London.

The stockbroker is trialling the system at Diageo's annual meeting on October 22.

The drinks group, which announced its results last week, will be publishing its annual report later this month. Wise Speke, part of the Brewin Dolphin group, will then accept instructions from its clients on how to vote on various resolutions, via an electronic proxy card.

Ben Speke, managing director of Wise Speke, said: "We are delighted to be launching this system for our clients. It will enhance the role of private shareholders in corporate governance and we hope that this sets an example that other institutions will follow.

"We will continue to campaign on behalf of private investors and are very grateful for the support of Diageo in the launch of this initiative.

"This new online voting facility will be an easy-to-use addition to our existing online client services and has been made possible by the launch of the Crest proxy voting system earlier this year. "

For Diageo and all other subsequent annual and extraordinary meetings, Wise Speke will post proxy voting cards on its website,

Clients holding shares in the company or their authorised agents will have approximately three weeks to cast their votes online. For Diageo, this will be from later this month until October 13.

Clients will not have to vote on every resolution.

If no vote is cast, Wise Speke will assume that the client has abstained. Wise Speke will confirm online to clients that their vote has been registered.

Wise Speke will then verify votes against client records and will cast all votes and abstentions and will post the total number of votes cast on its website.

Clients can also request other company information online, such as annual reports.

Brewin Dolphin is one of the UK's leading private client portfolio managers and stockbrokers with £13.5bn of funds under management, 32 offices nationwide and 142 corporate clients.