As universal owners, large institutional investors like BT have the ability to foster engagement and influence companies through their growing assets under management and long-term investment horizon.
To support and encourage positive change in areas such as business practice, risk management, governance, sustainability and disclosure, we use engagement. This involves a dialogue, in many cases, with directors and senior management of invested companies with the goal of improving long-term shareholder value.
Our policy is to:
- Engage with companies in which we invest to drive positive portfolio outcomes, either directly, through specialist engagement providers or through our underlying investment managers;
- Engage with companies of material value and risk, balanced with the feasibility of achieving positive outcomes;
- Engage holistically with companies, rather than on isolated business issues; and
- Report on our engagement activity.
We use a combination of engagement approaches. To benefit from enhanced access, subject matter expertise and economies of scale, we primarily engage through specialist engagement service providers, specifically EOS at Federated Hermes (EOS) for global shares and Regnan – Governance Research & Engagement (Regnan) for domestic shares. EOS and Regnan’s engagement approaches use the pooling of assets to provide a higher level of influence, and facilitate economies of scale. EOS and Regnan research, identify and prioritise ESG issues with input from BT entities amongst other investors. We meet regularly with our engagement providers to discuss engagement priorities and progress.
Our engagement providers monitor our investments in companies and intervene where necessary with the aim of delivering positive change, considering financial and non-financial outcomes such as impacts on the environment and society. The premise of this is that in working with boards and management, shareholders can contribute to better risk management and achieve superior long-term performance.
We also expect our investment managers to use their influence in order to achieve stronger investment outcomes over the long-term. We encourage our investment managers to directly engage companies on all matters, including ESG issues where appropriate, to facilitate a better understanding of the opportunities and risks associated with their investment.
We may also participate from time to time in direct engagement with companies. We are also involved in collaborative engagement efforts, such as the Climate Action 100+.
While our engagement activities are typically focused on our holdings in shares, the approach of our engagement providers and investment managers does extend to corporate bonds. Our engagement providers also undertake public policy engagement and advocacy, working with legislators, regulators, industry bodies and other stakeholders to influence capital markets. This can include, for example, advocacy on market disclosures, and preparing submissions regarding regulations and industry codes.
Regnan's engagement proactively identifies and engages with ASX200 companies in which ESG matters have the potential to be material to investment performance. It is largely proactive and is based on in depth analysis and understanding of both the stock and the ESG issue.
Regnan typically engages with directors as the representatives of shareholders but will also meet with subject matter experts and senior leaders within the business where the engagement is of a technical nature. At times meeting with various areas of the business can assist in further testing and/or triangulating company responses and in building a company-wide approach to the changes sought.
Regnan provides detailed monthly reporting on the engagement undertaken on our behalf as well as an annual public report and publicly shareable case studies on engagement activities.