Last updated: May 2013
Ranking insurance companies on transparency, engagement and shareholder voting
The standard business model for insurers is to generate more money through investment income than they pay out in premiums, so most insurers are likely to have a hefty investment portfolio. Insurance companies are likely to have investments in a lot of different companies and across all sectors, and our research for this report has confirmed that, in most cases, this is the case.
Other than the Co-operative which has chosen to move away from problem stocks, the dominant approach to socially responsible investment in the insurance sector is for companies to use their influence as investors to drive best practice by ‘engaging’ with the companies they invest in. Our approach has been to try to rank the extent and quality of this engagement.
Where companies engage at all, the focus is most commonly on ‘corporate governance’ – issues such as the make up of the board or policies on directors’ pay – as opposed to environmental or social issues.
Some insurers contract third party investment companies or fund managers to invest their capital on their behalf. Where fund managers have a number of clients which collectively prioritise Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) issues, shareholder influence can be increased.
Of the underwriters we have rated for this report, RSA and Lloyd’s of London both use F&C Asset Management. F&C are one of the best asset management companies for ESG engagement. They publish their full voting history and have fairly detailed policies.
For these two underwriting clients they often vote in favour of improved ESG. This means that if their clients allowed them to make decisions on how they vote, and they voted as a block, they’d have quite a substantial impact because they’d represent a large number of shares.
Best practice engagement activity is a strong policy with a commitment to activity on environmental and social issues as well as governance issues, and transparency in voting records. Few companies meet this standard, with many not disclosing any information about their investments at all.
As you can see from the list below only three companies, Aviva, Co-operative and Ecclesiastical, reach the highest standard. This is an improvement on 2007 when only two companies, CIS and HBOS (now part of the Lloyds Banking Group) were considered to have done this.
Top of the pile
Clear investment, engagement and voting policies, with full or extensive disclosure of voting history:
Some details of investment, engagement and voting policies, with limited disclosure of voting history:
Lloyd’s of London
Lloyds Banking Group
Vague and/or unsubstantiated
Some reference to investment and/or engagement strategies, but more information required to assess how robust they are. No voting disclosure.
Legal & General
Not a word or barely a whisper
No information on investment, engagement or shareholder voting policies, could be found:
American International Group (AIG)
Equine & Livestock
Zenith Insurance plc.
This information does not include investment strategies linked to particular investment funds, rather the company’s policies as a whole. Information has been taken from what the company publishes on its own website, and also reports they have made to ClimateWise.
Those that score best on engagement conversely score worse on our score tables than some brands that have not declared their investments.