Free Proxy Advisor? Yes. As You Sow and iconik have teamed up to offer free, set-it-and-forget-it, ESG-aligned proxy voting to enable shareholder democracy for millions of individual investors. The same service is also available to small institutional investors for a very small fee.
Free Proxy Advisor: Press Release
As You Sow, the nation’s leading non-profit shareholder advocacy organization with more than 30 years of experience, now offers its As You VoteTM ESG+ proxy voting policy to all retail shareholders on the iconik proxy voting platform for FREE! The no-cost set-and-forget free proxy advisor service opens access to anyone who owns shares in publicly traded companies to easily and simply register to vote all your proxies aligned with justice and sustainability.
Says As You Sow’s CEO Andrew Behar:
Every individual shareholder can now express their voice in shareholder democracy and vote for justice and sustainability on every item of every ballot. Most individual shareholders stay on the sidelines and don’t vote because they are overwhelmed by complicated ballots. This no-cost service enables individual investors to easily join more than $10 billion of institutional assets currently voting for the As You Vote ESG+ policy. Now anyone can take the field and impact corporate proposals on climate change, racial justice, political spending, and other critical issues.
Approximately 25% of all public equities are held by individual (retail) investors, more than the total ownership of BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street combined. However, until now, large asset managers had a distinct advantage over individuals in proxy voting, spending millions on technology and stewardship staff to manage their votes. As You Sow and iconik’s partnership flips this dynamic. Their free proxy advisor hands power to a larger, more democratic, diverse universe of shareholders seeking justice and a livable planet.
iconik’s web app is available to retail investors at no cost, as a free proxy advisor. Setting up an account takes under two minutes, and every proxy statement emailed to individual investors will be automatically voted according to the As You Vote ESG+ guidelines. Shareholders using ESG+ on iconik can have confidence that their votes will be used to send a unified message to corporate boards and executives to lower climate risk, reduce plastic pollution, improve social justice, align political spending, and promote responsible governance.
Explains iconik’s CEO Alex Thaler:
iconik is all about voice and choice. People want to be heard, and they want choices that align their investments with their values. Partnering with As You Sow on the As You Vote ESG+ voting option offers a strong voting choice focused on justice and sustainability that is built on As You Sow’s 30 years of leadership in shareholder advocacy.
The As You Vote policy is informed by the many in-depth scorecards and reports researched and published by As You Sow issue experts. It is called ESG+ because it more closely aligns with ESG outcomes when compared to other major proxy advisors. For example, the policy recommends against 347 CEO pay packages of the S&P 500, voting for all 100 As You Sow shareholder resolutions and all pro-ESG resolutions listed in Proxy Preview on issues including climate change; ocean plastics; pesticides; electronic waste; petrochemicals; racial justice; diversity, equity, and inclusion; gender equality; excessive CEO pay; sexual and reproductive health; hate speech; anti-slavery; concealment clauses; worker’s rights; and political spending.
This new technology is fully democratizing the public markets and there’s no going back. Retail investor votes can make the difference by helping their investments outperform. We see in recent polling that ‘86% of business leaders see sustainability as an investment which protects their organization from disruption; 83% said sustainability program activities directly created both short- and long-term value for their organization, and 80% indicated that sustainability helped their organization optimize and reduce costs.’ A new generation of investors is demanding to be heard and we are handing them the megaphone.
Free Proxy Advisor: CorpGov.net Insights
I own stocks in hundreds of issuers individually and in 500 companies through ONEFUND. I’ve been using Iconikapp for several months to vote stock held in my brokerage accounts and, more recently, for my small holding in ONEFUND INDEX through Iconikapp’s VoteThru. My overall experience with this free proxy advisor service has been fantastic. The tool saves me countless hours reading through proxies to vote conscientiously. It also saves me from just giving up and failing to vote.
DISCLOSURE: I like ONEFUND’s idea of soliciting input from investors on proxy voting, so I invested a small amount through them about two years ago. Initially, they were simply allowing investors to fill out individual proxies as a form of feedback. I told Mike Willis that was nuts. Even fanatics like me would not take the time. ONEFUND tried other mechanisms and has now settled on Iconikapp. I am delighted. I also love Ikonicapp so much that I invested a small amount in the company. See Disclosure of Possible Conflicts of Interest.
I know treasurers of small institutional investors that have no proxy voting policies. They frequently don’t vote or just vote as boards recommend. As You Sow and iconik could help them vote with As You Vote ESG+ guidelines, would cast votes automatically, and not only keeps a record of those votes but also why they were voted as they were. Small institutions will need to pay a small fee, but it is much less expensive than alternatives.
Keep in mind that As You Vote ESG+ may not cover every issue that is important to you, and you may disagree with some of their policies. Individuals can customize their profile and access all of the subject areas available on iconik. That requires upgrading to a paid plan (starting at $5/month).
Is Iconikapp better than custom services like ISS, Glass Lewis, or Egan-Jones? I don’t think so, especially for proxy contests for board positions. However, Iconikapp is much more affordable for small institutions and individuals. Iconikapp is far smarter and easier than voting on your own, especially since you can always override your automated votes.
Soon after I started CorpGov.net I testified at the SEC on the need to allow client-directed voting for retail shareholders-based proxy voting policies, just as institutional investors can. I also began working with others to offer proxy voting tools and advice to retail shareholders, including the following:
Iconikapp, especially as a free proxy advisor with As You Vote ESG+ guidelines, is the most promising tool ever to help retail investors execute their proxy votes automatically aligned with their values.