UK Stewardship Code backing grows; 43 new signatories confirmed

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has added 43 new signatories to the UK Stewardship Code following its spring 2022 assessment, taking the total number of signatories to 236, with assets under management of £40.7trn.

The FRC highlighted the continued growth in the number of signatories to the code, which was updated in 2020, as demonstration of the value that investors and their clients and beneficiaries in the UK and beyond give to the code.

The council also said that it is “encouraging” that signatories reporting for their second year, having first applied in 2021, had in most cases used the feedback they received to improve their reporting this year.

As a result, the council found improvements in several areas, such as the quality of activity and outcome reporting for engagement, collaboration and escalation; contributions to addressing market wide and systemic risks; and reporting on how signatories monitor and hold to account third parties, such as asset managers and service providers.

However, the council argued that greater emphasis by signatories on reporting their activities and outcomes during the reporting period is still needed, confirming that it will be increasing its focus on this area in future assessment updates.

FRC executive director of regulatory standards, Mark Babinton, commented: “I congratulate the new and returning signatories to the UK Stewardship Code.

“It’s also great to see improvements in how organisations are evidencing their stewardship each year and more tailored explanations on how they apply the code to demonstrate their stewardship activity and outcomes effectively.

“Using our feedback to provide clear, comprehensive and outcome-based reporting is what the spirit of the code is all about and why it is considered the gold standard for stewardship across the globe.”

New signatories to the code include a number of pension schemes and providers, such as Royal Mail Pension Plan, West Yorkshire Pension Fund, NatWest Group Pension Fund, and HSBC Bank (UK) Pension Scheme.

A number of companies have also renewed their signatory status, including Hymans Robertson, M&G, and Quilter.

Commenting on this news, Hymans Robertson responsible investment consultant and stewardship lead, Olivia Mooney, emphasised that signatories to the code have all "demonstrated their commitment to stewardship through their day-to-day activities and the outcomes they have achieved.

“The use of stewardship by clients and their managers is increasingly being recognised as key in the development of long-term approaches that not only deliver sustainable value but, also address climate issues, and ultimately the transition towards more sustainable economic activities."

“Over the last 12 months we’ve updated our stewardship guidance, tools for clients and expanded our team, in recognition that effective stewardship demands resource.

"And we will continue to build on this to ensure that high-quality, well-resourced stewardship becomes the norm.”

Quilter Cheviot head of responsible investment, Gemma Woodward, added: “The UK Stewardship Code sets a high bar in terms of what’s expected from firms managing assets on behalf of UK consumers.

“Our active ownership and approach to stewardship is an important component of our overall responsible investment approach across Quilter.

"We are delighted to retain our signatory status and also to use the feedback from the FRC to continually enhance our reporting and disclosure of our stewardship activity”.

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