IN FOCUS6-8 min read

AGM voting: holding asset managers to account

As the AGM season gets underway, we have written to asset managers responsible for over £30 trillion of assets setting out what we believe to be best practice in relation to voting. In doing so, we are actively using our influence to drive change through the asset management industry.

10/05/2023
Object and editorial

Authors

Chloe Mallo
Investment Manager

Cazenove Capital has written to all the asset managers on our approved fund list asking them to take action on behalf of their clients this voting season. This unprecedented public letter is a first by a wealth manager and demonstrates how the sector has an important role to play in steering the broader industry towards best practice in sustainable investment.

Cazenove Capital and Schroders Wealth Management are responsible for £62 billion of assets1, with £29 billion2 invested in collective investment funds. We have written to 93 of these fund managers, who in aggregate control over £30 trillion of assets3, to set out our view of voting best practice. Meeting these recommendations ensures managers are not just talking about sustainability and ESG but are actually taking demonstrable action.

“Fund managers should be using their votes to hold the underlying companies in which they invest to account on ESG issues. Our letter clearly sets out our interpretation of best practice” said Chloe Mallo, Investment Manager. “We have committed to this approach for the investments we hold directly on behalf of our clients. We encourage managers that we work with to do the same.”

"ESG considerations are central to our fund selection process,” explained Stuart Derrick, Head of Management Selection and co-signatory of the letter. “We would encourage all managers to follow to these voting principles, irrespective of whether or not they are managing an ESG or sustainable fund.”

We believe that best practice on voting includes the following:

1. Publishing voting policies and voting records - in an accessible format and in a timely manner.

2. Committing to voting on resolutions at all AGMs/EGMs (except where restricted).

3. Publicly pre-declaring voting intentions for important and/or more controversial ESG shareholder resolutions.

4. Intelligently using votes to support environmental and social shareholder resolutions. We do not expect votes for all ESG resolutions, but where such resolutions are not supported we ask that rationales for voting decisions are published.

5. Using voting as a form of escalation where companies are failing to make sufficient progress on ESG issues.

6. Using voting against company directors as a form of escalation where companies are deemed to be climate laggards.

Collective investment funds constitute a significant share of our investments on behalf of individuals, family offices, endowments and charities. This puts us – and other wealth managers – in a powerful position to drive change throughout the asset management industry.

The letter will be followed in the coming months by our annual manager questionnaire, which requests more detailed information on how asset managers are integrating ESG considerations into their investment processes and the action that they have taken.

1 Source: Cazenove Capital. 31 March 2023.  

2 Source: Cazenove Capital. 9 May 2023.

3 Source: Fund manager disclosures as of 31 December 2022.

Authors

Chloe Mallo
Investment Manager

Topics

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