Big divide in fund manager positions on company reports

Fund managers
Published on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 11:39
Posted by Scott Buckler

There was a sharp divide in the positions taken by fund managers last year, with a small number backing 85 per cent of company resolutions and a small minority supporting 25 per cent or less, according to the latest TUC Fund Manager Voting survey published today

The tenth annual Fund Manager Voting Survey, published to coincide with the TUC Pension Trustee Conference taking place in central London today, analyses the voting records of 26 fund managers, pension funds and voting agencies across 76 company resolutions between January and December 2011.

The survey found a sharp divide in investors' voting stances. Two survey respondents supported over 85 per cent of management proposals on which votes were sought, while three respondents supported less than 25 per cent of proposals.

Remuneration remains the issue most likely to be opposed by investors, though bank remuneration reports actually received strong support.

The RBS remuneration report received the highest level of support of any in the survey, though this is probably because its Chief Executive Stephen Hester handed back his bonus in the face of shareholder pressure before the report was voted on, says the TUC. The survey shows that a number of respondents undertook considerable engagement with RBS.

The survey shows encouraging progress in the public disclosure of fund managers' voting records, with 26 of the 28 survey respondents now making at least some voting data publicly available.

The fact that when the first TUC Voting Survey was published in 2003, just one institutional investor - the Co-operative Insurance Society - made its voting record public, shows just how much progress has been made, says the TUC.

However, the TUC still has concerns over the quality of data being made available by fund managers, with some only disclosing votes against and abstentions, and others only providing headline statistics.

And while many investors cited the Stewardship Code as a reason for making their voting more public, it has had little effect on their voting stances, says the TUC.

The TUC would like the Code toughened up so that fund managers are required to consult their clients over their approach to voting and engagement.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Fund managers have considerable power over the behaviour of corporate Britain but they wield influence in very different ways.

'It's encouraging to see more fund managers publicly disclosing their voting records, even if the quality of reporting is a little patchy.

'However the sharp divide in voting positions sends an important message to pension funds and other fund manager clients - when it comes to voting and engagement, it makes a huge different who you invest with. Clients should engage with their fund managers to ensure they are happy with the approaches being taken.

'The fact that the two remuneration reports captured in our survey that drew the most support were those of banks, shows that concern about bonuses and company performance do not necessarily translate into action.

'Getting people more actively engaged in where their money is being invested should ultimately improve corporate behaviour. It is encouraging that fund managers have reported an increased level of interest in voting and engagement from their clients compared to previous years. The challenge now is to ensure that fund managers take client views into account in their approach to voting and engagement.'

Source: ©TUC

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