Investment giant BlackRock is working to begin enabling individual investors to control their own proxy voting choices, the firm announced today, as part of a series of extensions it unveiled to its BlackRock Voting Choice initiative.

The announcement follows the introduction of the BlackRock Voting Choice program last year, beginning with certain institutional clients, including pension funds, insurance companies and corporations, in certain accounts managed in the US and UK. BlackRock has been working to expand the program, with nearly half of the firm’s $3.8 trillion of index equity assets under management now eligible. Interest has been strong, with BlackRock reporting today that clients representing 25% of Voting Choice eligible assets have enrolled in the program.

BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink, in a letter published today from to clients and CEOs today, said:

“One year after its launch, I am convinced that Voting Choice has the power to transform the relationship between asset owners and companies. And, if widely adopted, it can enhance corporate governance by injecting important new voices into shareholder democracy.”

Fink highlighted a series of moves the firm is taking to continue expanding the program, including an “industry-first” initiative to begin offering the program to individual investors. BlackRock said that it is working with digital investor communication platform Proxymity to build a solution to enable individual investors in some UK index funds to exercise choice in how their portion of votes are cast for the upcoming 2023 proxy season.

Fink wrote:

“As I’ve said before, my hope is that in the future, every investor – ultimately including individual investors – has access to voting choice, if they want it.”

Other expansions to the program unveiled today included providing a broader array of voting policies for clients to choose from with the including the addition of the Glass Lewis Governance-Focused Policy to the series of currently available Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) policies, and the extension of eligibility to Voting Choice clients representing another $90 billion of assets in certain institutional pooled funds that implement Systematic Active Equity (SAE) strategies.

Sandy Boss, Global Head of BlackRock Investment Stewardship, said:

“We believe clients should be able to choose if they wish to direct and exercise their preferences around voting themselves – in the same way that many do for other investment decisions, such as asset allocation and portfolio construction. BlackRock, through product innovation and technology, has helped democratize access to financial markets for millions, offering lower cost and greater choice. Now we are doing this for proxy voting too.”

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