Julian and Marian attended the AGM of Lloyd’s Banking Group on behalf of ShareAction on the 18th of May.
ShareAction have a regular campaign of Shareholder activism to raise issues with big business and one of their means of doing so, is formally asking questions at AGMs and seeking further engagement. Marian thought it would be a good idea to share her thoughts on the day and give our clients an insight into an AGM. (If you want to know more about ShareAction, click here for our previous post about them.)
Julian and I arrived at the SEC about an hour before the AGM was due to start to find an Extinction Rebellion protest in progress. Their protest was centred around Lloyd’s involvement with fossil fuels. They were handing out leaflets explaining their stance which had a QR code linking to a ShareAction report.
Once we got inside and got settled with our complimentary tea and Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers, the meeting began. Well, it tried to. Almost as soon as the Chairman of the Board, Robin Budenberg, started to speak, a man stood up and began to shout about the action that Lloyd’s needs to take to combat the climate crisis. He refused to quieten down and continued his speech despite the protestations of some of the shareholders. Once he sat down, another person stood up and then and another and another. In total, before the meeting had even begun four people stood up to voice their negative opinion of the group. It was interesting to see as I have never been to AGM before so didn’t know if this was normal or not. Although I feel it was important for them to make their opinion known, I do wonder if it would have been more impactful for them to do so during the question and answer session so that the board would have had the opportunity to answer them?
Once the meeting got underway, Mr Budenberg highlighted some facts and figures about the group from the last year. They now have two million shareholders and 26 million customers. As a group, they are transitioning to low carbon and in response to the cost-of-living crisis, they have trained 4500 staff to offer extra support to customers. They have helped people to consolidate loans into one to make repayment easier and they have paused payments for those in acute debt.
Following Mr Budenberg was Charlie Nunn, the CEO of Lloyd’s Banking Group. He furthered some of the previous points. He stated that Lloyd’s are the first major bank to stop providing finance to greenfield fossil fuel projects and that they are working towards building a strong and inclusive society.
And then came the question and answer session and Julian was first up. The question we had been given by ShareAction was:
“Could the board provide an overview of Lloyd’s position on taking the next steps in ethnicity pay gap reporting in the UK, by providing data across quartile pay bands and bonus proportions, as recommended by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development?”
Mr Budenberg’s response was that Lloyd’s are one of the first organisations to comply with the reporting of the ethnicity pay gap. They noted that their ethnicity pay gap has reduced and that they hope to continue that trend. They also stated that they have a good relationship with ShareAction and hope it will continue.
Another question from a ShareAction volunteer was about Lloyd’s response to the climate crisis. They noted that their exposure to oil and gas is limited to less than 1%. They also do not directly finance new greenfield oil and gas projects and aim to reduce their emissions by 50% by 2030. They will not stop lending to oil and gas projects because they believe that if they don’t, someone else will and they want to use their influence to ensure that their customers have credible transition plans.
The board were asked a lot more questions on a variety of topics, some with a political edge and others relating to people’s personal cases and feelings about the group. One that stood out to me was a woman who challenged the board on the removal of a compressed hours pilot plan. From what I understand, the pilot offers employees the ability to work full time hours but over less days. Therefore, leading to fewer, but longer working days. The questioner was a representative of Unite and shared a case study. She stated that one employee has had to choose between changing her hours or changing her childcare arrangements. Both options would lead to her losing a significant amount of money – in the range of £1000 to £3000. Another case study stated that the plan was discriminatory towards those with disabled children as sometimes the parents need to be the ones caring for the child, it may not be possible to arrange childcare. Mr Budenberg responded by saying that they need to create a work pattern that is fair for everyone. He claims that they are listening to employees and are sorry to hear of the concerns. He acknowledged the need for individual discussions and that there is a need to focus on vulnerabilities.
I feel that this question highlights the need for more work towards gender equality in the workplace. The way the questioner spoke highlighted that it is working mothers that are negatively affected by this change to working hours. The group may be working towards ethnic equality, but I think they also need to carry on their work towards gender equality.
Once the meeting was finished, we were gifted a packed lunch by a team who operate a food bank under the Heilman’s Umbrella at Glasgow Central Station. Julian and I headed back up to our co-working space in the Savoy Tower to eat our lunch and mull over the morning’s events.
This was my first experience of an AGM, so I had no idea what to expect. I found it very interesting to see the protests outside and inside the venue and the ways in which they were dealt with. It was also interesting to see how the board dealt with some hard-hitting questions. It’s definitely given me some food for thought. I’mvery grateful to ShareAction for giving me the opportunity to attend alongside Julian and hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to do it again at some point.
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