Matt Crossman, Stewardship Director for Rathbones shares a day in his life, from proxy voting, speaking at a conference on modern slavery, to engaging on ESG topics. Read the interview to find out more.
Tell Citywealth’s readers about your role.
I’m the Stewardship Director for Rathbones. I’m responsible for all the ways in which we own assets on behalf of our clients. That’s mainly in proxy voting at thousands of AGMs a year, but also in our thematic engagements on ESG topics. I manage a passionate team helping us as a business live our goals around responsible investment.
Talk us through a typical day.
There is no typical day, especially in proxy season! We have been a remote team for quite a while, spread across the country, so like many readers currently we spend a lot of time online. One of the best things about this job is how varied the work is. On any given day I might be writing to CEOs of our biggest international holdings, and jump straight on a call supporting an investment manager with a major charity client, before writing a thought-leadership piece on an ESG topic. In a few weeks’ time I’m speaking at a conference about modern slavery in the morning and then investor action on climate change in the afternoon; it keeps me on my toes.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in meeting ESG targets?
In keeping with everyone else in the industry, it’s data and ratings. Better reporting and more consistency remain issues affecting the growing ESG movement, although thankfully we are seeing more movement here.
Best and worst parts of your job?
Engaging with companies can be the best of times and worst of times, but at least it’s never dull. Change happens in often unpredictable ways – you might be steadily and consistently working on an ESG issue for seemingly a long time before suddenly making rapid progress. The best part of my job is managing my team – they are all passionate, committed and smart and a joy to line manage.
Most memorable or proudest work moment?
In early 2014 we were working on promoting better supply chain transparency to combat modern slavery. At short notice I was invited to give evidence to the UK Parliament regarding the inclusion of transparency reporting in the Modern Slavery Bill. Getting a grilling from four MPs and five peers live on Parliament TV was quite an experience. However, like many who were involved in the Bill, getting s54 Modern Slavery reporting passed as part of UK law remains a high watermark for our engagement work. Overseeing the first ever board-supported AGM resolutions on climate action with two European oil and gas companies in 2016 is a close second.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
I’ll choose two. The first is not to overestimate what you can achieve in six months, and not to underestimate what you can achieve in two years. There is something to be said for dedicated and relentless engagement on the most important issues, that has real results. The second is a lot more personal, and that would be to sit down and think about what success for you looks like, and to write it down. For me, success is having the people who know me the best, love and respect me the most. Any day I come close to living up to that is a good day.
What’s next for you and your team?
In the short term, we are adding a few more members of the team, which is exciting. For 2022 we are looking to deepen our engagement on our core ESG topics, and specifically to take our investor engagement on Modern Slavery to the next level.