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IPE special report May 2018

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NAPF urges members to stop abstentions in policy overhaul

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The UK’s National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) has re-written its corporate governance policy for members as it looks to encourage schemes to be more considered when engaging with companies.

Its corporate governance policy and voting guidelines are updated annually and aim to act as an impetus to schemes on how they communicate expectations to asset managers and proxy advisory firms.

In the latest update, the NAPF has added the need for schemes to place greater focus on the personal responsibility of individuals elected to the board of companies, and holding these individuals to account.

The guide called for a wider view of risks in the companies owned by pension fund members.

It said to account for reputational risk from the stocks based on a company’s approach to tax.

Funds should consider and engage on emerging risks such as those associated with climate change and cyber security.

After turbulent years for companies from pension funds and other owners on the area of remuneration, the NAPF has also updated its policy to be more explicit about the issues it thinks members should consider.

In September, the group began naming and shaming companies that had failed to acknowledge shareholder and NAPF member concerns on pay.

The updated policy also no longer advocates the use of abstentions when voting at annual general meetings (AGMs), as the NAPF said it wanted to members to put more emphasis holding individuals to account for issues relevant to them.

Corporate governance lead at the NAPF, Will Pomroy, said it was a natural role for the NAPF to express its expectations for pension funds and asset managers.

“Members of the NAPF have a clear interest in promoting the success of the companies in which they invest,” he said.

“We focus our efforts on maximising the long-term returns of our members’ assets, irrespective of the potential for short-term discomfort.

“We strongly encourage shareholders to make systematic use of all of the powers at their disposal to support the highest standards of governance at the companies in which they invest.”

In 2013, the NAPF, alongside the Financial Reporting Council, set up a stewardship framework asking asset managers to publish voting habits and activities.

However, after only seeing 57 managers take part by March 2014, the pension fund group blasted the industry for not singing up.

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