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Key takeaways of DPAM’s 2020 voting activity report
DPAM is an independent active asset management firm and manages investment funds as well as discretionary mandates on behalf of institutional clients, for a total amount of € 43.3 billion, as of December 2020. DPAM is a sustainable investor, pioneer and innovative in responsible and sustainable investing. The firm integrates ESG across asset classes and themes and it is also an active owner. DPAM has a strong focus on research with a proprietary in-house fundamental and quantitative analyst team, supporting the firm’s asset management activities.
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Also in 2020, an exceptionally challenging year due to the corona pandemic, proxy voting is an intrinsic part of DPAM’s fiduciary duty to be a responsible asset manager and shareholder on behalf of end investors.
Ophélie Mortier, Responsible Investment Strategist at DPAM, comments on the overarching philosophy guiding the voting decisions: “Our Voting Policy, which was adopted in 2013 defines the principles that shape our active voting decisions. Basically, we strive to uphold four major principles: the protection of shareholders, sound corporate governance, transparency and integrity of information, as well as social, environmental and governance responsibility.” Hugo Lasat, CEO of DPAM, contends: “We aim at exercising voting rights in a clear manner and in the best interest of sustainable development. Due to the health crisis and its economic, financial and social fallout, there has been a lively debate over shareholder governance, guided by profit maximisation, versus stakeholder governance which entails corporations adopting a broad view on societal issues. Stakeholder governance is taking the lead over shareholder governance.”
DPAM’s principles are based on established corporate governance standards and the recommendations of, but not limited to, the OECD, the ICGN (International Corporate Governance Network). They are also based on the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, the applicable national laws derived from European directives and regulations, the Glass Lewis policies in its role of specialized firm as DPAM advisor, the TCFD (Taskforce on Climate related Financial Disclosures) guidelines and recommendations, and other voting principles applicable to the Asset Managers, as long as they do not contravene the decisions sovereignly taken and justified by the DPAM operational body.
2020: VOTING CONTINUES UNABATED
During the corona crisis, which severely hit all layers of society and corporations, DPAM continued to uphold its voting activities. Salient topics include the following:
Health & safety and diversity
Ophélie Mortier: “The corona pandemic resulted in more attention for health and safety of employees, an important actors in the stakeholders ecosystem.”
The Shareholder Rights Directive II affected the agenda’s, primarily on the topics of remuneration, diversity of the board of directors (particularly gender diversity) as well as the oversight of the ESG and sustainability risks. Initiatives such as Climate Action 100+ require climate change to be integrated in the highest levels of corporate management.
Focus on Europe and US
DPAM’s voting activities focused on Europe and the US, and participated to shareholder meetings when the required minimal participation rate, as defined in the Voting Policy, was reached.
DPAM participated to 688 general and extraordinary meetings, for in total 9,571 resolutions. These figures are higher than in 2019. DPAM voted for 604 corporations, mainly in Europe and the US. This is a 5% rise.
Few abstain votes
Mortier continues: “Of the 9,571 resolutions for which we voted, we abstained in just 1% of the cases, which proves we are serious about letting our voice heard”. In 9.11% of the cases, DPAM voted against the resolution, which is in line with last year’s figures. In almost 86% of the cases, DPAM supported management, while in 10.11% of the cases, DPAM cast a negative vote, mainly regarding shareholders’ proposals related to environment but also related to social concerns.
Most resolutions pertain to traditional topics: board of directors topics, audit and financial statements, executive remuneration and capital management.
Mortier: “Engagement remained an important priority for DPAM in 2020, including collaborative of individual engagement as well as a formal dialogue with companies”. DPAM sent 101 letters in 2020, which is lower than in 2019. It may signal that some engagement topics are gradually becoming best practices.
The independence of the board of directors and executive remuneration remained an important engagement topics in 2020.