Mary Poppins came to mind the other day during a panel discussion about governance and the role of the institutional investor.
Part of a conference about fiduciary obligations, I joined Mr. Stephen Davis (Executive Director of the Millstein Center for Corporate Governance & Performance - Yale School of Management) and Ms. Janice Hester-Amey (Portfolio Manager, Corporate Governance - CalSTRS) for a discussion about governance. I believe we were successful in kicking off the day long event with some thought-provoking tidbits. We covered new rules that, if passed into law, should empower pensions, endowments and other asset owners. We opined on regulation versus voluntary action. We had a lengthy exchange about what motivates institutions and whether governance was now considered a "must do" that contributes to return versus a "try to ignore" because it is seen as a drain on resources.
In the words of this famous nanny, find the fun and the job's a snap. I'm not sure that governance will ever top the list of jollies but one does wonder when best practices will stop getting lip service and instead merit the attention it so richly deserves. Chief Governance Officer anyone?
I added commentary about what I believe fervently is an inevitable industry move towards scoring with respect to process (not the same as outcome). Several legal professionals in the audience suggested that any type of benchmark would necessarily offer limited value because of subjective bias (their words, not mine) on the part of those who construct the ABC report card.
I don't necessarily concur. There are MANY points on which rational investment stewards would agree as no-brainer elements of what is right.
For those readers who want to get my specific take on what they are and how to monetize what I think is a great opportunity, contact me. Our firm is looking for solid partners on a few initiatives that we believe break the mold in anticipation of the brave new world of indexing procedural prudence.