Skip to main content

Step up with active ownership

We work with our Investment Adviser abrdn - one of the world’s largest investment specialists - to invest your money and carry out the activities we talk about below. So, “we” below includes abrdn acting for us, aligned to our approach.

You’re saving in a Pension, Stocks and Shares ISA or Unit Trust / Investment Account that invests your money in our funds. Some of our funds directly invest in bonds and shares which we own on your behalf. Some of our funds invest in a collection of other funds, so we own part of those other funds. Our funds that do that are known as funds of funds.

Owning shares means being a shareholder and getting the opportunity to influence the companies we invest in for you, by voting on what the company does. For both shares and bonds, we can also influence those companies by engaging with them on important issues. In our funds of funds, we work directly with other Fund Managers on their ownership activities.

Being an active owner means working with companies to make sure they put your money to good use. This means considering more than just the financial performance of the company – it’s also about considering the impact they have on the world and working to make that positive. More and more, it means looking at the company’s plans for the future to make sure these are good for people and the planet.

We are moving to investing responsibly across all of our funds. This is shifting our investments from just following different stock market indices, where we don’t pick and choose the companies we invest in, to incorporating investing responsibly into our approach. An important part of this is using active ownership; we need to make sure we are engaging with companies and – if investing in shares – using voting rights to make positive change.

abrdn has a Stewardship policy that sets out how their active ownership activities are carried out with companies. Check it out here.

Engage for positive change

Engaging with the companies that our funds invest in is hugely important as they work towards bringing about positive change.

Our funds invest in a lot of companies, so we need to engage on the most important issues and the companies that need to change the most to be positive in their impact.

We have a process in place to work with companies to get this done and use common goals with other investors to progress important issues for everyone – like human rights and reducing carbon emissions.

Votes matter

For the funds that invest directly in shares, these come with a right to vote in the decisions companies make in their annual general meeting. We have an approach to voting and this includes using that power along with investor engagement to raise all the most important issues with companies, as well as raising objections on decisions we disagree with.

For the two Virgin Money funds that invest directly in shares, the tables below show part of our voting record during 2023. It lists, for the ten largest holdings in each fund, our votes that differed from the recommendation of the company.

PositionCompanyMatter voted onVote direction recommended by CompanyVote direction takenReason
1Unilever Plc: British Consumer goods CompanyManagement Vote: Approve Remuneration Report & Policy
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstThe incoming CEO's salary has been set higher than his predecessor's and is significantly higher than his current salary at Royal FrieslandCampina, and UK market peers. The Company has not provided compelling justification for this remuneration package.
2GSK Plc: Pharmaceutical and biotechnology company with global headquarters in LondonManagement Vote: Approve Remuneration Report
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstThe long-term incentive scheme used by the company allows high levels of vesting for the achievement of threshold performance.
3Glencore Plc: Multinational commodity trading and mining companyManagement Vote: Approve 2022 Climate Report
Planet: Climate Reporting
ForAbstainWhile we welcome the intention to increase climate-related transparency and accountability, we have reservations about the implications of Say on Climate votes. We are of the view that presenting climate strategy as a standalone voting item risks diminishing both the integration of climate in strategy and the direct responsibility and accountability of the board and individual directors. Should this resolution be approved, it may limit the scope for subsequent challenge. We have therefore chosen to abstain on this resolution.
  Shareholder Vote: Resolution in Respect of the Next Climate Action Transition Plan
Planet: Climate Reporting
AgainstForWhile there has been a significant improvement in climate disclosure, we believe there are still deficiencies in Glencore’s transition plan. Some elements are still unclear and would benefit from further clarity, especially on the planned decline in coal production. We believe a shorter-term target could support shareholders’ understanding of the Paris aligned transition.
4Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc: British multinational Consumer goods companyManagement Vote: Approve Remuneration Report & Policy
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstWe have had long standing concerns about the high remuneration quantum and Long-Term Incentive Plan (LTIP) structure.
5Compass Group Plc: British multinational contract foodservice companyManagement Vote: Approve Remuneration Report & Policy
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstA vote against this item is considered warranted because, the Company's Remuneration Policy received significant dissent at the 2022 AGM (32.5 percent against), which has been attributed to concerns around the significant increases made to LTIP award levels. Despite the level of dissent recorded, no material actions have been taken to address the underlying concerns raised.
  Management Vote: Re-elect named Director
How the company is run: Board of directors
ForAbstainThe Company's Remuneration Policy received significant dissent at the 2022 AGM (32.5 percent against), which has been attributed to concerns around the significant increases made to LTIP award levels. Despite the level of dissent recorded, no material actions have been taken to address the underlying concerns raised. It therefore seemed appropriate to abstain on the re-election of this director as she is Chair of the Remuneration Committee.
6Flutter Entertainment Plc: International sports betting and gambling companyManagement Vote: Approve Remuneration Policy
How the company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstThe company intends to grant a one of award of LTIP of 1600 percent of salary. We are opposed to such one-off awards.
  Management Vote: Approve Long Term Incentive Plan
How the company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstThe company seeks to introduce a new LTIP to facilitate the one-off award of 1600 percent of salary. We are opposed to such one-off awards.
  Management Vote: Amend Restricted Share Plan
How the company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstThe company seeks to amend the rules of the RSP to facilitate the one-off award of 1600 percent of salary. We are opposed to such one-off awards.
7SSE Plc: Energy CompanyManagement Vote: Approve Remuneration report
How the company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstFollowing a consultation in 2022 we voted against the approval of the company’s revised Remuneration Policy and Performance Share Plan. We were not supportive of the increase in PSP grant from 200 percent to 250 percent of salary. We were of the view that this was not appropriate in the context of the developing cost of living crisis. Awards were granted at the new maximum during the year, and as we remain of the view that awards should not have been increased we have voted against the Remuneration Report.
  Management Vote: Approve Net Zero Transition Report
Planet: Climate Reporting
ForAbstainWhile we welcome the intention to increase climate-related transparency and accountability, we have reservations about the implications of Say on Climate votes. We are of the view that presenting climate strategy as a standalone voting item risks diminishing both the integration of climate in strategy and the direct responsibility and accountability of the board and individual directors. Should this resolution be approved, it may limit the scope for subsequent challenge. We have therefore chosen to abstain on this resolution.
8Legal & General Group Plc: British multinational Financial services and asset management companyManagement Vote: Approve Climate Transition Plan
Planet: Climate Reporting
ForAbstainWhile we welcome the intention to increase climate-related transparency and accountability, we have reservations about the implications of Say on Climate votes. We are of the view that presenting climate strategy as a standalone voting item risks diminishing both the integration of climate in strategy and the direct responsibility and accountability of the board and individual directors. Should this resolution be approved, it may limit the scope for subsequent challenge. We have therefore chosen to abstain on this resolution.
9Aviva Plc: British multinational Insurance companyShareholder Vote: Approve Climate-Related Financial Disclosure
Planet: Climate Reporting
ForAbstainWhile we welcome the intention to increase climate-related transparency and accountability, we have reservations about the implications of Say on Climate votes. We are of the view that presenting climate strategy as a standalone voting item risks diminishing both the integration of climate in strategy and the direct responsibility and accountability of the board and individual directors. Should this resolution be approved, it may limit the scope for subsequent challenge. We have therefore chosen to abstain on this resolution.
10InterContinental Hotels Group Plc: British-American Hotel and hospitality services companyManagement Vote: Approve Remuneration Policy
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstA vote against the remuneration policy is warranted because the maximum LTIP opportunities are being increased, resulting in a material uplift of the Executive Directors' quantum that is not accompanied by sufficiently compelling rationale.
  Management Vote: Approve Remuneration Policy
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstA vote against this item is warranted because the Company applied discretion to adjust the cash flow metric of the vesting FY2020 LTIP, which would otherwise still pay out, leading to a 7.2% increase in outcome.
PositionCompanyMatter voted onVote direction recommended by CompanyVote direction takenReason
1Microsoft Corporation: American Multinational Technology companyManagement Vote: Advisory Vote to Ratify Named Executive Officers' Compensation
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the link between pay and performance. Performance-based awards have a performance period of less than three years.
  Management Vote: Ratify Deloitte and & Touche as Auditors
How company is run: Reappoint Auditor
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the length of auditor tenure, which could impede independence.
  Management Vote: Publish a Tax Transparency Report
How company is run: Tax Transparency
AgainstForDespite the challenges of tax transparency reporting, Microsoft announced its plans to publish a country-by-country tax report in 2025, to comply with EU regulatory standards. Microsoft publicly supports multilateral efforts on tax reform proposed by 138 members of the OECD and G20. Given regulatory requirements of international tax systems are rapidly evolving, a vote for a tax transparency report is warranted. We believe enhanced disclosures on Microsoft’s tax practices would be of benefit to investors as tax transparency can illuminate material risks to profitability and reputation. Furthermore, the drafting of the resolution does not constrain the board and executive’s discretion in the management and reporting of tax affairs.
2GSK Plc: Pharmaceutical and biotechnology company with global headquarters in LondonManagement Vote: Approve Remuneration Policy of Chairman and CEO fom January 1, 2023 until May 3, 2023
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstWe have concerns that the Remuneration Policy of the Chairman and CEO provides for full vesting of outstanding Long-Term Incentives.
  Management Vote: Approve Company's Climate Transition Plan
Planet: Climate reporting
ForAbstainWhile we welcome the intention to increase climate-related transparency and accountability, we have reservations about the implications of Say on Climate votes. We are of the view that presenting climate strategy as a standalone voting item risks diminishing both the integration of climate in strategy and the direct responsibility and accountability of the board and individual directors. Should this resolution be approved, it may limit the scope for subsequent challenge. We have therefore chosen to abstain on this resolution.
  Management Vote: Authorize Issuance of Equity or Equity-Linked Securities with Pre-emptive Rights up to Aggregate Nominal Amount of EUR 800 Million
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstThe issuance authority exceeds our guideline limits.
3Tetra Tech: American Engineering and consulting companyManagement Vote: Advisory Vote to Ratify Named Executive Officers' Compensation
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the link between pay and performance. Total Shareholder Return metric threshold set below median.
4Analog Devices: American multinational semi-conductor companyManagement Vote: Election of 2 named Directors
How company is run: Board of Directors
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the tenure of these two Directors.
  Management Vote: Advisory Vote to Ratify Named Executive Officers' Compensation
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the link between pay and performance. Time-based awards to the CEO are worth more than $5m in the current year and preceding year. Total Shareholder Return metric threshold is set below median.
  Management Vote: Ratify Ernst & Young LLP as Auditors
How company is run: Reappoint Auditor
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the length of auditor tenure, which could impede independence.
5Crown Holdings: Packaging companyManagement Vote: Elect named Director
How company is run: Board of Directors
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the gender diversity of the board and therefore considered a vote against the Chair of the Nomination Committee to be appropriate.
  Management Vote: Ratify PWC LLP as Auditors
How the company is run: Reappoint Auditor
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the length of auditor tenure, which could impede independence.
  Management Vote: Advisory vote to Ratify Named Executive Officers' compensation
How the company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the link between pay and performance. TSR metric threshold set below median.
  Shareholder Vote: Submit Severance Agreement (Change-in-Control) to Shareholder Vote
How the company is run: Executive Pay
AgainstForThe proposal applies only to future severance arrangements. The current agreements will not be affected, and the proposal offers flexibility as to when the board may seek shareholder approval of a new or renewed severance arrangement, such as at the next annual meeting.
6Equinix, Inc: Digital Infrastructure CompanyManagement Vote: Elect named Director
How the company is run: Board of Directors
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the tenure of this Director.
  Management Vote: Ratify PWC LLP as Auditors
How the company is run: Reappoint Auditor
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the length of auditor tenure, which could impede independence.
7Deere & Company: American Agricultural machineryManagement Vote: Elect named Director
How the company is run: Board of Directors
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the tenure of this Director.
  Management Vote: Advisory Vote to Ratify Named Executive Officers' Compensation
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the link between pay and performance. More than 50 percent of awards are time-based. Total Shareholder Return metric threshold set below median.
  Management Vote: Ratify Deloitte & Touche LLP as Auditors
How company is run: Reappoint Auditor
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the length of auditor tenure, which could impede independence.
  Shareholder Vote: Submit Severance Agreement (Change-in-Control) to Shareholder
How company is run: Executive Pay
AgainstForA vote in favour of this item is warranted given that it is positive for shareholders to have the ability to vote on severance amounts that exceed market norms, the proposal applies only to future severance arrangements, and the proposal offers flexibility as to when the board may seek shareholder approval of a new or renewed severance arrangement, such as at the next annual meeting.
8Legal & General Group Plc: British multinational Financial services and asset management companyManagement Vote: Approve Remuneration Report
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstFollowing a consultation in 2022 we voted against the approval of the company’s revised Remuneration Policy and Performance Share Plan. We were not supportive of the increase in PSP grant from 200 percent to 250 percent of salary. We were of the view that this was not appropriate in the context of the developing cost of living crisis. Awards were granted at the new maximum during the year, and as we remain of the view that awards should not have been increased we have voted against the Remuneration Report.
  Management Vote: Approve Net Zero Transition
Planet: Climate reporting
ForAbstainWhile we welcome the intention to increase climate-related transparency and accountability, we have reservations about the implications of Say on Climate votes. We are of the view that presenting climate strategy as a standalone voting item risks diminishing both the integration of climate in strategy and the direct responsibility and accountability of the board and individual directors. Should this resolution be approved, it may limit the scope for subsequent challenge. We have therefore chosen to abstain on this resolution.
9American Water Works Company: Water servicesManagement Vote: Elect named Director
How company is run: Board of Directors
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the tenure of this Director.
  Management Vote: Advisory Vote to Ratify Named Executive Officers' Compensation
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the link between pay and performance. TSR metric threshold set below median.
  Management Vote: Ratify PWC LLP as Auditors
How company is run: Reappoint Auditor
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the length of auditor tenure, which could impede independence.
  Shareholder Vote: Oversee and Report a Racial Equity Audit
People: Diversity
AgainstForThe Company has introduced several diversity and inclusion initiatives and has plans for more in future. We support the company in these efforts and believe the proposed report would help shareholders and management to assess their efficacy and identify specific areas for improvement.
10Ameresco, Inc: Renewable EnergyManagement Vote: Advisory Vote to Ratify Named Executive Officers' Compensation
How company is run: Executive Pay
ForAgainstWe have concerns regarding the link between pay and performance. The CEO's salary was significantly increased again in FY22 and remains relatively high as compared to peers. Further, while equity awards were entirely performance-based, the CEO's grant value was considered to be outsized. Specific forward-looking performance targets were not disclosed nor were relative weights and the potential impact of individual performance.
  Management Vote: Advisory Vote on Say on Pay Frequency
How company is run: Executive Pay
Thee Years between votesOne Year between votesA vote for the adoption of an annual say-on-pay frequency is warranted. Annual say-on-pay votes are considered a best practice as they give shareholders a regular opportunity to opine on executive pay.

A few more important things

There are a few other areas of active ownership that we consider and these help us to manage your investments.

Conflicts of interest based on ownership influence

That means keeping an eye out for things that we do that might stop us from making the most of this on your behalf.

Sweating the big stuff

We work with other investors on the big things that companies need to do to build positive change and a brighter future.

Lending out

A couple of our funds can lend out their investments, which also includes ownership rights. We make sure this is only in small amounts, for a short time, and in a way that doesn’t impact on being an active owner for you.

Helpful Information