The first Belgian pension fund has opted to use its proxy votes at shareholders meetings. The Brussels-based VKG fund for doctors, dentists and pharmacists, has appointed consultants Deminor to undertake this.

The fund is invested in 24 Belgian companies, including most of those in the Bel20," says VKG deputy general manager Karel Stroobants. The fund has assets of Bfr15bn ($407m) of which Bfr2.5bn is invested in the Belgian market. There were three recent guidelines published on corporate governance, the most important was that of the Belgian stock exchange, he says. "We wanted to show support for these initiatives."

Stroobants says the fund will go a step further than in the guidelines and ask companies if they are complying with them and if not to explain why. "As a pension fund, which is not linked to any company, we are completely independent. For other schemes there could be a problem, because Belgium is dominated by a number of big companies." As VKG was too small to undertake the voting itself, it appointed Deminor which acts for a number of institutions.

The Belgian Association of Pension Funds is reviewing the guidelines and is to issue its comments shortly."