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ING adopts “more active” voting policy

GLOBAL – ING Group, whose asset management businesses run about 162 billion euros of equity assets, says it will adopt a “more active” role as an institutional investor.

ING said it has set up a global voting policy governing the exercise of voting rights for all its client and proprietary assets worldwide. “The policy provides the groundwork for ING's asset management units to adopt a higher profile as institutional investors.”

Clients’ voting rights would be “exercised in the exclusive interest of the clients, without taking into consideration any relationships ING may have with the company involved”. And ING's own voting rights “will be exercised in the interest of ING”.

“That means ING's asset management companies may cast different votes for client assets and proprietary assets respectively,” ING said in a statement.

“We're not ‘voting against our own clients’," said spokeswoman Dorothy Helenius. She added: “Because we will vote proxies for assets in a way that serves the interests of the owner of those assets, theoretically there may be instances where ING would vote one way with our proprietary assets and another way with client assets.”

“However, the goal of managing all assets is to enhance the long-term value of the investment.”

She said the policy has been drawn up to “manage” potential conflicts of interest between, for example, ING’s asset management clients such as pension funds on the one hand and wholesale banking clients on the other.

ING's asset management units have a total of 462.7 billion euros under management, of which 313.5 billion euros is managed for private and institutional clients and the rest for ING companies. Equities account for 35% of assets under management, or about 162 billion euros.

ING will begin reporting quarterly on its voting behaviour for both proprietary and client assets in the Netherlands from the start of next year, in line with the Dutch corporate governance code.

Helenius said the “vast majority” of voting would take place by proxy and that most units “would likely choose to outsource the voting to a third-party”.

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