Difference Between Shareholders and Directors

  • Setindiabiz Team
  • July 7, 2023
Share holder
In the competitive business landscape, several companies are coming into existence to join the startup revolution in India. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, you need to be familiar with each aspect of a company so that you can start firmly and take your business to the topmost level. With this guide, you will get to know about the difference between a shareholder and a director which are two leading decision-making authorities in a company. This further piece of writing sheds light on a comprehensive analysis of difference between directors and shareholders in a simple and easily understandable manner.
In India, a company structure basically consists of three main stakeholders with distinct and well-defined roles; shareholders, directors, and employees. However, during the incorporation of the Company, only its shareholders and the first directors play the role of its promoter. These two have quite distinct roles and responsibilities in a company.
While the shareholders control the ownership of the company and are entitled to share its profits in the ratio of their shareholding, directors are responsible for controlling the day to day management of the company and ensuring its compliance with all legal, tax, and regulatory frameworks. Let’s take a closer look at their responsibilities in a little more depth and detail.

Who is a Shareholder in a Company?

Shareholders are authorities holding the equity shares of a company in a fixed ratio or percentage. This percentage decides their share of ownership, profits and decision making powers in the company. Their responsibility extends to investing capital, and having a final say in key decisions, like appointment of directors and fixing the composition of the Board of Directors. The Shareholders of a company attest its most important constitutional documents viz. the Memorandum of Association (MOA) and the Articles of Association (AOA) through their signatures, which always form a part of these documents until they part ways with the Company.
Decisions are made by the shareholders by passing resolutions in the general meeting. These resolutions may be ordinary (which requires more than 50% vote) and special (which requires more than 75% vote). Although most decisions taken by shareholders require an ordinary resolution, there are certain crucial matters like alterations in MOA & AOA, reduction of share capital, removal of auditor before the expiry of his normal term, and appointment of directors beyond the prescribed maximum limit of 15, which require the passing of a special resolution.
The general meeting of shareholders is held annually within 6 months from the end of the financial year. It is a statutory meeting and is mandatory under law.The key decisions taken at this general meeting are:
  • Adoption (Approval) of the audited books of account of the company
  • Declaration of the dividend amount to be paid to each shareholder
  • Approval of the Auditor’s Appointment 
  • Approval and Election of directors on rotation
Resolutions are not only required for approving decisions, but also can be passed to disapprove decisions. The AGM can even be adjourned if the agendas of the meeting remain unfinished. It is pertinent to mention here that all decisions/resolution of the shareholders is recorded in the minutes of the meeting of the shareholders. The resolutions requiring approval of the 3/4th majority of shareholders are reported to ROC by filing a copy of the resolution in form MGT-14. Other than the AGM, if any specific agenda arises in the middle of the year, shareholders can call an Extraordinary General Meeting to resolve it.
When it comes to the requirements of shareholders, it varies from one category to another. In a Private Limited Company, the minimum number of shareholders is 2 and the maximum number can reach up to 200. While in case of a Public Limited Company, the minimum number of shareholders is 7 but no maximum limit defined. A One Person Company, on the other hand, as the name implies, cannot have more than a single shareholder who will be solely responsible for the decision-making in the company.

Who is a Director in a Company?

As already mentioned earlier, there is a sharp difference between shareholders and board of directors in terms of their roles, responsibilities and liabilities towards the company. While shareholders are mainly tasked to arrange the investment or capital and give vision or direction to the company through major policy decisions, directors, on the other hand, are responsible for bringing this vision to life by proper management of the company’s affairs and ensuring compliance to various legal and regulatory requirements.
The shareholders appoint the initial and all subsequent directors of a company, who hold office until the satisfaction of the shareholders. In order to remove a director from his position, shareholders of the company need to pass a resolution with a simple majority at an unusual or extraordinary general meeting or EGM. However, even during the removal process, the director has to fulfill all his responsibilities till the final day of his removal.
The key responsibility of a company’s directors is to control, oversee, and manage the overall internal management & affairs of the company, which also includes taking decisions regarding the same through passing resolutions at the board meeting.
Board Meeting is the meeting of the Board of Directors which is a collective body composed of all directors of a Company. Resolutions are passed at the Board meeting through simple majority gained through voting by each director. One director’s vote is counted as one vote in the meeting and the majority defines what should be implemented or done.

Types of Directors

Not all directors appointed in a company have similar roles and responsibilities. Their roles and responsibilities differ based on the purpose of their appointment. Given below are a few types of directors you will usually find in any incorporated company in India. The roles and responsibilities of different types of directors are explained below;
Types of Directors in company
  1. Executive Directors – These kinds of directors are directly involved in the company’s management as well as internal affairs. They are appointed whole-time and responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company. They also take care of legal and regulatory obligations of the company timely so that to avoid consequences like fines, penalties, and late fee, etc.  
  2. Non-Executive Directors – These directors are not involved in the company’s day-to-day management & activities and internal affairs. They are either appointed to represent a stakeholder or work in professional capacity for the company. 
  3. Independent/Professional Directors: Independent or professional directors are non-executive directors who are appointed to serve the company in their professional capacity. They are usually entrusted with the task of assisting the Board of directors make key decisions related to their stream of expertise. 
  4. Nominee Directors: These kinds of directors are appointed to represent a stakeholder of the company especially when the major decisions are taken by its Board of Directors. They ensure the protection of the interests of the party they are representing. Other than this, they do not get involved in the management and day to day operations of the company in any form.
  5. Additional Director: Additional Directors are appointed to complete any additional work arising unprecedentedly. Their term only extends up to the next AGM held from the date of their appointment.

Directors and Shareholders as Company Promoters

The very first role that a Shareholder and a Director plays in a Company is that of a promoter. Promoters are people who conceive the idea of forming a company, decide about its business activities, determine the investment which is required as its capital based on estimations of working capital, and day to day expenses towards assets. Additionally, promoters may have some sort of monetary interest in the company as well.

As per Section 2(69) of the Companies Act of 2013, a promoter is one:

  1. Who has control over the affairs of the company, directly or indirectly whether as a shareholder, director or otherwise; or
  2. In accordance with whose advice, directions or instructions the Board of Directors of the company is accustomed to act, except those who act only in professional capacity for the company.

Difference Between Shareholders and Directors

Directors and Shareholders are two of the major designations in a company and serve the company in different ways. While Shareholders bring capital investment for the company’s growth and expansion, directors control its internal management and fulfill compliance requirements timely so that the company’s operations can keep on going in a smooth manner.
Gaining insights into the difference between shareholder and director is vital for running a company smoothly. In the table below, we have highlighted the key difference between shareholders and directors along several parameters like induction, roles, responsibilities, minimum requirement and so on.

Shareholders vs Directors: Table of Differences

Parameters Shareholders Directors
Induction
Allotment of Shares
Appointment by Promoters / Shareholders
Eligible Entity
Any Individual or Non individual entity
Individuals who are not minors
Roles
Holds part ownership of the Company
Controls the management of the company
Responsibilities
Infuses capital into the Company
Ensures that the company is legally compliant
Decision-making
Takes crucial decision regarding company’s financial performance
Takes crucial decision regarding company’s internal management
Liability
Restricted Liability to pay-off the company’s debts
Personally Liable to pay penalties and fines in case of compliance failures
Minimum Number
Pvt Ltd Company: 2
Public Limited Company: 7
One Person Company: 1
Pvt Ltd Company: 2
Public Limited Company: 3
One Person Company: 1
Maximum Number
Pvt Ltd Company: 200
Public Limited Company: Unlimited
One Person Company: 1
Pvt Ltd Company: 15
Public Limited Company: 15
One Person Company: 15
Remuneration
Receives Dividends in the percentage of share of ownership
Receives Remuneration for professional services offered to the company
Removal from Office
Cannot be removed from office unless ordered by a Court / NCLT, but can vacate office at will
Can be removed by shareholders on grounds mentioned in the Companies Act
(i) Appointment: One of the primary differences between shareholders and directors is related to the manner of their induction or admission in a Company. Initial shareholders are admitted through a fresh allotment of shares while subsequent shareholders are admitted either by transfer of existing shares or allotment of new shares. On the other hand, the First Directors of the company are nominated by the promoters in the Articles of Association (AOA) of the company subject to their express consent given in Form DIR-2.
The shareholders generally make the subsequent appointments of the directors through the Extra-Ordinary General Meeting (EGM). However, the casual vacancy on account of resignation or death of an existing director can be filled by the Board of Directors subject to the confirmation by the shareholders in EGM. The NCLT/Central government/Financial Institutions can also appoint a director of a company, as per law or the funding terms, if the need arises.
(ii) Eligible Entities:A shareholder can be an Individual or any juristic person, like a firm, LLP, another Company, a group of companies or conglomerates, society, trust, section 8 Company, government company, and so on. They can either be Indian or Foreign entities. There is no restriction on the nationality and residence of a company shareholder.
In other words, only a non-minor Individual can become a director in a company. Whether he is an Indian or foreign citizen, there is no restriction on their nationality. However, the Companies Act puts a restriction on the resident status of at least one director in a company. It mandates that at least one director in a Company must be a Resident Indian, that is should have resided or lived in India for more than 120 days in the previous financial year.
(iii) Roles: Both the shareholder, as well as the directors, have to play critical roles in the company. While the shareholder is the owner of the company, the directors control the company’s internal affairs and management, including the completion of various tax, regulatory and legal compliances. The same person can assume both the roles unless articles of association of the company explicitly prohibits it.
(iv) Responsibilities: Based on the roles both shareholders and directors are assigned in a company, they are required to fulfill separate responsibilities. As the owner of a company, the shareholders are required to invest capital and subscribe to the company’s shares. In addition, they are also needed to take part in the annual and extraordinary general meetings to contribute to the approval of key decisions of the company that may be taken through ordinary and special resolutions.
(v) Decision Making Powers: The Board of Directors takes the decisions of day to day managing the company. The shareholders make the crucial decisions such as the investment, declaration of dividend, alteration of the MOA or AOA of the company, and appointment of the directors on the recommendation of the board of directors. Such decisions are taken by passing resolutions at the Board Meeting and General Meeting. The decision-making or authority of voting of each shareholder is correlated with their shareholding ratio, implying that the major shareholders are assigned more votes than others. On the other hand, directors have equal decision making powers as shareholders are. Each has been assigned one vote while passing a resolution in the Board Meeting.
(vi) Liability: One of the other major differences between shareholder and director is related to their liability towards the company. The Liability of Shareholders in a company are with respect to the Company’s dues and debts. Shareholders are required to pay off the company’s dues and debts in events like sudden winding up, if the company is facing losses or if the company has accumulated huge amounts of debts it is unable to pay off. However, this liability is restricted to the unpaid amount of share capital and the personal assets of the shareholders are not at risk of seizure under any circumstance.
As far as the director’s liability is concerned, it is related to their duty of ensuring the company’s legal compliances under laws like the Companies Act, Income Tax Act, GST Act and others. Since the director is incharge of overseeing the fulfillment of all compliances, any failure or delay in the same makes him personally liable to pay penalties and fines as the case may be. In a few severe non-compliance actions, the directors can also be imposed with imprisonment after prosecution by the government.
(vii) Minimum and Maximum Requirement: The minimum requirements of shareholders and directors differ for different types of companies. A Private Limited Company can be registered with a minimum 2 shareholders and 2 directors. When it comes to the maximum limit of shareholders and directors in a company, it can go up to 200 and 15 respectively. A Public Limited Company, on the other hand, must have at least 7 shareholders and 3 directors for its incorporation. Unlike a Private Company, it does not have any restrictions on the maximum limit of shareholders, however the maximum number of directors can only be increased up to 15.
A One Person company cannot have more than one shareholder. The minimum number of directors it needs is also 1, and can be raised to a maximum limit of 15. Note that, to appoint more than 15 directors in each of these companies, a special resolution must be passed by the shareholders to that effect.
(viii) Removal from Office: Like the process of induction, the process of removal also marks a key difference between shareholder and director. A shareholder cannot be removed from a company unless an order to this effect has been passed by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) or any other court of law. However, they have the right to leave the company on their own wish by transferring their shares to a new or existing shareholder. Directors, on the other hand, can hold office only until they are discharging their responsibilities to the satisfaction of the shareholders. To remove a director from his office, shareholders can call an EGM, and by a simple majority pass a resolution to that effect.
Also, Section 164 of the Companies Act prescribes various grounds on which a director is declared as disqualified. Upon being declared a disqualified director under section 164, the director automatically vacates the office, and he or she no longer is considered a part of the company’s Board of Directors. Any board meeting having a disqualified director as part of quorum count shall be considered invalid, and the decisions taken in such meeting shall be considered void.
(ix) Remuneration or Profit-Sharing: The shareholders are not entitled to any compensation, salary, or wages from the company, and their only interest from the company is the dividend or increase in the value of the stock which they own in the company. On the contrary, directors are entitled to remuneration subject to the limits set by section 197 of the companies act and sitting fees if they are serving the company with their best professional capacity.

Take a closer look into the differences between directors and shareholders, it will help you gain detailed knowledge about their roles, and responsibilities within a company. The shareholders are those who invest their money in the company for the sake of getting profits that may reap from the business and they also contribute to decision making for the organization's betterment and growth. While, the directors are responsible for managing the company's day-to-day operations and legal compliance to ensure operational efficacy.

Wth above blog post, know about the key differences between a shareholder and director as it will encourage transparency & authenticity across the business ecosystem.

Conclusion

FAQs

Q1: What is the primary role of a shareholder in a company?

The primary role of a shareholder is to bring in capital to the business and decision-making. The primary responsibility of the shareholders of a corporation is to elect a board of directors. The board works as the first line of corporate governance and is entrusted with the responsibilities of overseeing company’s executives, taking key decisions on the behalf of the shareholders related to the direction and policies of the company.

Q2: Can a shareholder be removed from a company?

As compared to a director, removing a shareholder involuntarily can be a hard nut to crack. A shareholder can only be removed only if he has violated the company laws or shareholder’s agreement. In such cases, a removal resolution has to be prepared and presented to the Board of Directors (BODs).

Q3: How are directors appointed and removed from a company?

In general, the directors are appointed by the shareholders of at AGM (Annual General Meeting) or in EGM (Extraordinary General Meeting). A resolution for appointing directors is presented which undergoes a voting process. The same will be passed if a majority of the shareholding voted in favor. In the same way, directors can be removed by its shareholders through a common process of voting at an EGM.

Q4: What are the liabilities of directors and shareholders in a company?

The liabilities of a director in a company is significantly lower than the shareholders, and are not liable for the debts/loans on the company. They are liable for managing the company’s internal management, and essential compliances. They can be held liable for the penalties and prosecution arising due to non-compliance.

Moreover, sometimes they can also be held civilly or criminally liable for making misleading statements or presenting misleading facts to the associated parties i.e. investors, customers or sometimes shareholders too.

Q5: How do directors and shareholders contribute to a company's overall success?

Shareholders invest their money into a business thus, offering financial security to a company. In return for their investment, they take share in profits of the company. They also oversee how the directors are managing the company. On the other hand, directors oversee and manage entire day-to-day tasks in the company. They are responsible for making strategies and decisions for the growth of the company.

The shareholders and directors together are necessary for a smooth functioning of a company as they are complementary to each other.
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One thought on “Difference Between Shareholders and Directors”

  1. Wow, this article is truly awesome! It made it so easy for me to understand the difference between shareholders and directors. Thank you for simplifying it!

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