What can asset owners do together?

Collective action is critical for shaping the Path and the Path is often more important than the Rider or the Elephant. It is easier to be more courageous in company and the herd instinct amongst investors is very real. Finally systemic challenges can’t be addressed without collective action by assertive action by asset owners.

  1. Benchmark yourselves (ie with other asset owners that seek to be universal owners) focusing on stewardship activities. Include inputs (resources), outputs (activity) and outcomes (impact). And if you don’t remember, others will!

  2. Fund the development of a CFA equivalent in universal ownership and also do an educational video suitable for investment professionals who might not be willing to do the full course and also as a teaser for the course. 

  3. Engage with one major fund manager who is taking universal ownership seriously (everything is work in progress) to understand why this happened, the development path and what they are doing. Then engage with another “systemically important” fund manager that’s currently agnostic/ antagonistic to universal ownership to encourage them to  shift their performance. Rinse and repeat with a leader/laggard pair of investment consultants etc etc. This addresses one of the strongest criticisms of universal ownership, namely that “asset manager capitalism” neutralizes any positive effect that a few (even big) pension funds can have (see, for example, Benjamin Braun).

  4. Tell the “traditional” investment organisations to which your funds belong or otherwise support (both national and international, see Appendix 1) that you would like them to – at a minimum – acknowledge their universal owner members and include such thinking in their thought leadership, training and programming and ideally endorse universal ownership theory as a valid alternative/complement to efficient market hypothesis. Better still if they can explicitly endorse it or at least jawbone their members eg with a key note presentation.

  5. Support and vote according to “guardrails” which are uniform limits on corporate behaviours that externalise, to an excessive degree, social and environmental costs. Guardrails are most effective when investors apply them consistently and uniformly, rather each making bespoke demands of individual fund managers/companies.

  6. Lobby regulators and legislators to consider critical externalities and systemic risks/threats from a universal ownership perspective, rather than allowing them to default to an individual company enterprise value baseline. And the same with inter-governmental organisations (eg UN, OECD, WHO, IEA etc) and global standard setters (eg ISSB/double materiality). If big asset owners backed regional or global treaties/rules for addressing systemic threats (eg Fossil Fuel Non Proliferation Treaty, Bridgetown Initiative, EU’s human rights due diligence law) this would be huge! And this addresses another major criticism of universal ownership, namely that it is less effective than lobbying. In practice, there doesn’t need to be a choice – indeed lobbying that is backed up by investors doing what they are able to do in the sphere of direct control is likely to be much more effective.

  7. Fund a professional video to explain to your members why you back UO and what it means. This would also help members of other funds lobby for change. All experienced PR, marketing and campaign professionals know that if you want to have an effective campaign to move people to action, you’ve got to have today a high-quality video which is widely shared. A low-quality one won’t be shared! And without consumer (member) demand there will be weak progress by asset owners and investment managers.

  8. Traditional investor organisations could be doing more to promote Universal Ownership (UO)


  • Australia: Australian Council of Superannuation Investors 
  • Canada: Canadian Coalition for Good Governance 
  • UK: Pension & Lifetime Savings Association, Investment Association, Investor Forum
  • USA: Council of Institutional Investors
  • Please suggest other national investor organisations that could be doing more.


Please send your suggestions to info@universal-ownership.com