Voting Matters at Nordea

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – The latest edition of ShareAction’s report on asset managers’ engagement efforts, Voting Matters 2022, is out now. The authors examine how 68 of the world’s largest asset managers voted on 252 shareholder resolutions designed to address current environmental and social crises and analyse the voting performance, comparing it to previous years’ findings. “Our annual Voting Matters publication forms part of our campaign to hold asset managers to account and empower their clients,” write the report’s authors, Dr Claudia Gray, Felix Nagrawala, Izzy Monnickendam, and Katie Stewart.

    Biggest – far from the best

    So, are asset managers using their proxy votes for action on environmental and social issues? The main conclusions of the report are rather disappointing. The analysis shows that the four largest asset managers (BlackRock, Vanguard, Fidelity Investments, and State Street) backed fewer shareholder resolutions on environmental and social issues in 2022 than in 2021 (20 per cent of resolutions, compared to 32 per cent in 2021). All four also voted more conservatively than the world’s largest proxy voting advisors.

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    “The world’s very largest asset managers continue to block progress on environmental and social issues,” asserts Share Action, adding that 49 additional resolutions would have received majority support if the largest asset managers had voted in favour of them. It appears that asset managers across the board are hesitant to back action-oriented resolutions, which would have the most transformative impact on environmental and social issues.

    Europe shines

    Looking at different regions, the report concludes that voting performance has been stagnant in the US and the UK compared to 2021. Meanwhile, European asset managers have shown a large improvement. Impax Asset Management, Achmea Investment Management and BNP Paribas Asset Management topped the ranking, with key European and UK-based asset managers such as CANDRIAM, Man Group and Amundi Asset Management in the top 10.

    “As we can see from encouraging progress in Europe, change is possible,” comments Claudia Gray. “The data clearly shows that there is no intrinsic link between the size of an asset manager and voting progressively on pressing issues like climate change, human rights, or public health.”

    A Nordic star

    Among the Nordic asset managers analysed by ShareAction, Nordea comes up best as number eleven. “Nordea believes in active ownership to accelerate the sustainable transition in society, which the results from our voting are a strong proof point of,” comments Richard Torgerson, Nordea Funds Corporate Governance Specialist. “The number of resolutions within sustainability is increasing, however, we continue to achieve the same high overall score as last year and have increased the resolutions which we voted in favour of from 116 to 205 of the proposals that ShareAction has chosen, i.e., supporting 77% more sustainable resolutions this year.”

    At the end of 2020, Nordea introduced the Voting 2.0 project intending to increase voting performance significantly. Over the past couple of years, the asset manager has voted at over 95% of AGMs, about 4000 general meetings annually. This is more than any other large Nordic bank in both relative and absolute terms, according to Nordea.

    “We see more and more proposals every year for these issues, which is a good thing, and we are proud of our strong score,” explains Torgerson. “The reason that we’re not able to support all such proposals is that in some companies, different proposals are put forward by numerous filers, and they might thus be aimed at the same thing or be mutually contradictory. Other times, proposals are not defined enough or deemed by us to not be in the best interest of our unitholders. That said, we’re glad to see that ShareAction recognises our commitment, and we supported more than nine out of ten of their chosen resolutions.”

    Other Nordic asset managers in the ranking end up further from the top. SEB Investment Management ranks number 26, and Swedbank is even further down the list at number 50.

    Image courtesy of Manny Becerra on Unsplash
    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia has accumulated experience in asset management for more than 20 years in Stockholm and Beijing, in portfolio management, asset allocation, fund selection and risk management. In December 2020, she completed a program in Sustainability Studies at the University of Linköping. Julia speaks Mandarin, Bulgarian, Hindi, Russian, Swedish, Urdu and English. She holds a Master in Indology from Sofia University and has completed studies in Economics at both Stockholm University and Stockholm School of Economics.
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