EUROPE - The Ethos Foundation and Proxinvest have formed a strategic alliance to pool their proxy voting expertise.

The firms said closer collaboration would allow them to take advantage of synergies in the development of new products and information technology, offer increasingly effective customer platforms and reinforce their positions in the field of proxy voting advisory services.

"Investors have understood that it is in their interest to exercise their shareowner rights systematically and in an informed manner," said Dominique Biedermann, executive director at Ethos. "For this, they increasingly turn to independent local specialists for assistance."

Ethos, the Swiss Foundation for Sustainable Development, was created in 1997 by two Geneva-based pension funds and currently comprises 92 institutional investors. Its purpose is to promote socially responsible investment (SRI) and a stable, prosperous socio-economic environment. It has a 20% stake in Proxinvest.

Proxinvest was founded in 1995 in Paris by Pierre-Henri Leroy. More than 30 French institutional investors and asset managers with more than €2trn of assets under management rely on Proxinvest.

Both organisations provide institutional investors with an array of services enabling the exercise of shareowner rights, in particular to vote at general meetings. They specialise in agenda analysis, voting recommendations and voting execution. Both are members of the European Corporate Governance Service (ECGS), the largest European network of proxy voting advisors.

They also aim to contribute to raising standards in corporate governance and shareholder voting policies, in particular by publishing various studies and bringing together investors. To this effect, Proxinvest will establish a steering committee made up of well-known corporate governance specialists and chaired by Ethos.