Enter Michelle Edkins. The Kiwi expat is a BlackRock managing director, leading the global corporate governance and responsible investment team.
“Companies should generally be pleased if they don’t hear from us, because it means we’re supportive of what management or the board are doing,” she says.
Passively managed funds often cop flak for failing to take much interest in the companies they own.
But Edkins says BlackRock aims to vote its shareholder rights 100 per cent of the time, hits that target in major markets, and has every incentive to act.
The company’s huge passive equities arm, iShares, invests in line with entire indices or sectors.
“Our clients by definition are both longterm, and locked in,” says Edkins. “They can’t sell those companies that are not performing as well as they should be; and so that’s why the engagement is really important.”
The 22 people on her team vote in more than 15,000 meetings a year. Decisions are informed by research from advisory firms, which present company information in a consistent format easy to compare against benchmarks.
“Although it is a high volume, we’re also pretty experienced at this,” says Edkins.