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Time for some good news on stewardship

The AGM season is well under way, with asset owners and managers as keen as ever to have their voices heard. Climate change is once again on the agenda, especially at oil and gas companies, with positive developments at BP and Shell in recent years proving investors can have an important impact. 

nick reeve

The UK’s Investment Association, the trade body for the country’s £7.7trn (€8.9trn) asset management industry, has prioritised fairness of executive pension arrangements this year, and it has already had an effect with dozens of listed companies having revised how their senior staff are remunerated.

But it is not all plain sailing. A report from Willis Towers Watson last month called out six of the world’s biggest asset managers for not committing enough resources to stewardship teams and failing to take full advantage of shareholder voting rights. 

Meanwhile, in Denmark and Sweden, institutional investors have not been shy in making their views heard with regard to Danske Bank and Swedbank in the wake of allegations of money laundering – see Rachel Fixsen’s report on the latter case on page 12. Senior staff have resigned, and the wider financial services sector in the Nordics faces something of a trust issue, as we reported in April.

Investors should look to the recent example set by the Church of England and Sweden’s AP funds, which have led a drive for safety reforms at mining companies following a disaster in Brazil earlier this year. Asset owners and managers can engage positively with the companies in which they invest and draw on the successes of previous interactions to ensure that change is permanent and for the better.

Nick Reeve, News Editor
nick.reeve@ipe.com

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