Investment giant BlackRock announced today that it plans to expand its Voting Choice program to its iShares Core S&P 500 ETF, the firm’s largest ETF with $305 billion AUM, subject to iShares board approval.
The move would open up the program enabling investors to control their own proxy voting choices to over three million shareholder accounts of the S&P 500 exchange traded fund.
Joud Abdel Majeid, Global Head of BlackRock Investment Stewardship, said:
“BlackRock is committed to a future where every investor can have the choice to participate in the shareholder voting process. While many asset owners choose to rely on BlackRock’s Investment Stewardship team to engage and execute voting on their behalf, consistent with our fiduciary duty as an investment manager, others want the choice to participate in proxy voting more directly.”
The announcement follows the introduction of the BlackRock Voting Choice program in 2021, 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 the firm indicating last year that it planned to extend voting choice to individual investors.
With the expansion of the program to the S&P 500 ETF, Voting Choice would be open to $2.3 trillion of BlackRock’s total index equity AUM, or more than half of the firm’s global index AUM.
Interest has been strong, with BlackRock indicating that clients representing more than 25% of Voting Choice eligible assets have committed to the program as of Q1 2023.
Under the new program, eligible investors would be offered a series third-party policies, which would be used to split proxy voting ballots based on pro-rata fund ownership. Investors would also be offered the option to continue to vote according to the BlackRock Investment Stewardship policy.
The firm said that it will use the S&P 500 ETF pilot program to assess investor interest, the proxy voting infrastructure and user experience, in order to evaluate further expanding the program.
Salim Ramji, Global Head of iShares and Index Investments, BlackRock commented:
“As we work towards a future where every investor can participate in proxy voting choice, we are excited to launch BlackRock Voting Choice for millions of investors by expanding the program to our iShares Core S&P 500 ETF, our largest ETF and one of the most widely held.”