Responding to Pensions Minister Guy Opperman’s speech at the TUC Pensions Conference today, the Association of Member Nominated Trustees (AMNT) congratulates the Minister for raising the issue of why asset owners do not have control over their shareholder votes when they invest in pooled funds.
Janice Turner, founding co-chair of Association of Member Nominated Trustees (AMNT), said:
“We strongly welcome this statement from the Minister on the stewardship of asset owners and their ability to execute their responsible investment policies, especially with regard to pooled fund arrangements. We particularly appreciate his challenge to the reluctance among the fund manager community to accept trustee voting policies, identifying similar barriers that we have encountered during our research on this issue.
“With the support of the UK Government, we hope that the new regulations make it even more clear that this issue has to be addressed, and we at the AMNT will continue our campaign to empower trustees to adopt and implement their own stewardship policies.”
Leanne Clements, campaign manager for Red Line Voting, added:
“We cannot continue with status quo arrangements – greater regulatory pressure on trustees, but continued reluctance from the fund management community to adopt client policies in pooled fund arrangements – as this will result in an impasse with no positive momentum. The industry needs to work together – including asset owners, fund managers, and UK regulators – to develop solutions to this issue.
“We are certain that continuing support from the Department for Work and Pensions on these important issues will enrich our campaign efforts to empower asset owners to adopt – and most importantly to execute – their stewardship policies.”
During his speech this morning, Guy Opperman stated his commitment to give pension scheme trustees clarity about their duties regarding environmental, social and governance (ESG) and stewardship considerations, and also indicated his interest in schemes “being given a voice”.
Going further, he questioned why the “end investors” – the trustees – cannot cast their votes in pooled fund arrangements. He highlighted the barriers noted by the industry as reasons why this cannot be done. To the issue of technology being a barrier, the Minister stated that “we should fix the technology”. To the feedback that fund managers believe it is better to “speak with one voice”, he stated his view that it is not “impossible to communicate that your investors have a diversity of views”. Saying that he had heard suggesting that it might even be legally questionable, he said: "But if that's the case why are some investment managers letting some clients vote?"
The Association of Member Nominated Trustees (AMNT) is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, set up by and for member-nominated trustees, member-nominated directors and employee representatives, of UK based occupational pension schemes in the private and public sector. Set up in 2010, the AMNT has included nearly 800 trustees in its membership, and together these have represented pension schemes with assets under management of around £750 billion, one third of the total UK occupational pensions sector.
The Association is dedicated to providing those Member Nominees (MNs) with support, which underpins their critical role in ensuring that their pension scheme is governed in the best interests of the scheme members in consultation with their sponsors. The AMNT will enable MNs to build their skills and knowledge, voice their opinions, share best practice, become part of a like-minded community and be better recognised for the good and important work they do.
The AMNT has introduced a new approach to responsible investing, Red Line Voting, which enables pension scheme trustees to play a proper stewardship role with regards to the companies in which they invest, including pension schemes investing via pooled funds meet their fiduciary duties in line with the recent guidance from The Pensions Regulator and the Law Commission, It does this by allowing pension schemes to set environmental, social and governance (ESG) voting policies at “best practice” level. For more details, please refer to: http://redlinevoting.org/what-is-red-line-voting/
Campaign Manager for Red Line Voting, AMNT