There may be a number of national initiatives focused on standardising proxy voting practices in individual countries, but there are no global efforts to harmonise these practices across borders, agreed panellists at this month’s CorpActions 2011 conference in London. Justin Chapman, global head of process management at Northern Trust, suggested that some engagement at an international level, building on the foundations of the work of national groups might be a starting point.
Panellists agreed that a global working group should be established to discuss such an initiative focused on the standardisation of the proxy voting space. However, it was unclear who would lead the charge towards establishing such a body.
John Kernan, senior expert at international central securities depository (ICSD) Clearstream, contended that it is vendors’ duty to be a part of any such solution. He suggested that these market participants would be more likely to have the appetite for investment in this endeavour.
On a national level, Kernan also pointed to specific markets such as France that could be ripe for efforts towards standardising the voting confirmation process in partnership with the vendor community. “If you break the problems down into their component parts they should be much easier to tackle,” he suggested. “Change will always be incremental.”
In terms of investment, however, issuers will not carry the costs of standardisation and will instead pass it onto the registrar community, said Jai Baker, senior relationship manager at Capita Registrars. Ergo any standards efforts that are kicked off will need to be justified and have solid business cases in place.