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As a bank, we at Brown Shipley have adopted a responsible investment policy of which active ownership is an integral part. Our responsible investment policy emphasises our ability to create positive change by being active owners, which we believe to be consistent with improving long-term investment returns for our clients. Engagement with the companies in which we invest is a vital part of this. Moreover, active ownership is one of the six Principles for Responsible Investment [https://www.unpri.org/] of which our parent Quintet is a signatory.
All of our investment activities are undertaken with a focus on the long-term interests of our clients. This is the focus of our investment policy, and our active ownership policy is fully aligned with these beliefs.
Since we represent a diverse group of clients with diverse holdings across the investment universe, we invest in a wide range of companies. As many of these companies are large, our holdings may be small relative to the size of the firm. To be effective in engaging with these companies, we believe that collective engagement is likely to achieve better results than efforts we might undertake on our own. We have therefore hired specialised external service providers to conduct engagement and voting on our behalf.
In cases where collective engagement or voting is not practical, we may undertake direct engagement ourselves.
The Management Committee of Quintet (Brown Shipley is an affiliate of Quintet) is responsible for our investment activities, including our responsible investment activities, of which active ownership is part. We have established a Responsible Investment Committee which implements our Responsible Investment Policy. With respect to active ownership, this policy includes:
Brown Shipley’s Responsible Investment Policy applies to discretionary portfolio management (assets managed for end-clients on a discretionary basis), advisory (advice on assets of clients who ultimately decide themselves on their investments), asset management (assets managed through Brown Shipley’s mutual funds).
We will engage on behalf of both equity and fixed income securities held in investment funds we manage or in client accounts we manage or actively advise. Voting is of course restricted to equity securities.
The full range of issues on which our service providers may engage incudes many different topics. This recognizes the increasing breadth of sustainability issues now material to the companies in which we invest. As we work with our service provider, it is important that our engagement focuses on the most critical areas, and we will work actively with our engagement provider in determining those priorities. For 2020, the focus includes the following areas:
The primary focus of our voting decisions will be good governance of the organisation, including management of material environment and social risks. Governance structures that drive performance, create shareholder value and maintain a proper tone at the top are a key to mitigating risk and building long-term shareholder value. Boards that work to protect and enhance the best interests of shareholders are independent, have a record of positive performance, and have members with a breadth and depth of experience.
Our voting services provider has codified their approach to reviewing how boards are overseeing environmental and social issues. In instances where it is clear that a company has not properly managed or mitigated environmental or social risks to the detriment of shareholder value, or when such mismanagement has threatened shareholder value, we may vote against members of the board who are responsible for the oversight of environmental and social risks.
In general, Brown Shipley exercises voting rights solely in the general interest of its clients, irrespective of its own interests, and in compliance with its guiding principles. Brown Shipley has introduced a procedure to anticipate, identify and manage potential conflicts of interest.
If exercising its voting right for a given company exposes Brown Shipley to a significant conflict of interest, the team responsible for the “exercise of voting rights” of Brown Shipley will refer the matter to the Head of Compliance, who will decide the appropriate measures, including the decision to participate in said company’s general meetings.
Read Quintet Private Banks’s Active Ownership update here.
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