The Council of Institutional Investor’s spring conference for 2018 – held this week in Washington D.C. at the Omni Shoreham Hotel – was packed with member-hosted panels, where nearly 400 of the top investment professional, regulators, and corporate governance experts gathered together to share their insights and engage in forward-looking discussions on how to drive a multi-stakeholder approach to responsible investment over the long-term.
Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI) had the opportunity to attend several breakout sessions, including one presented by Maryland-based Institutional Shareholder Services that sought to address one of the most pressing challenges facing institutional investors today: How can environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria help drive voting at the board level? Moderated by Georgina Marshall, Head of Global Research at ISS, panelists provided a diverse array of perspectives on how to harness ESG considerations as an effective decision-making tool.
For Bonnie Saynay, Global Head of Responsible Investments at Invesco, fostering an environment conducive to communication with investment teams using a “player-coach” model is critical. Moreover, Saynay warned investors of thinking too broadly on ESG considerations, and to instead focus in on the criteria that is most important to them as an organization, and to then tailor their stewardship practices to match those priorities: “If everything is important, nothing is important,” she said.
Clare Payne, head of corporate governance for North America at Legal & General Investment Management, highlighted the importance of procuring the latest ranking data from a number of different providers, as well as how to develop one’s own internal system for scoring so as to cut through the clutter and provide a contextualized framework for making investment decisions on your own terms.
Remuneration is the name of the game for Robbie Miles, Vice President and ESG analyst at Allianz Global Investors. Amid the ever broadening scope of influence that responsible investment commands, Miles urged attendees to work with their managers on mandates that link compensation to the long-term performance of the fund, as well as long-term holding periods.
Wrapping up the panel was Stu Dalheim, Vice President of Shareholder Advocacy at Calvert Research Management, advocated for diversity at the board level across a number of different metrics – including ethnicity, gender, and professional backgrounds – in order to reflect the reality of their client base, as well as provide an apparatus for robust debate and adaptation in an ever-changing business environment.