PRI chair Engshuber says differing views with board led to resignation

Differences with PRI Board behind abrupt departure

More than two months after he abruptly resigned as chair of the board of the PRI Association, the legal entity which runs the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), Wolfgang Engshuber has told RI that a serious difference of views with the PRI Board led to his departure.

In early 2011, Engshuber, a former senior US executive for German re-insurer Munich Re, was appointed chair of the PRI Association Board and of the PRI’s Advisory Council for three-year terms. Roughly speaking, the Board is the management committee of the PRI while the Council oversees the Board and provides strategic direction. The PRI’s Secretariat is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the initiative and reports to the Board.

Last April, the PRI announced that Engshuber had stepped down as PRI Association chair, well before his term was to expire. Glen Saunders, the New Zealand Superannuation Fund Guardian, has taken over as interim Board chair until a successor is found. Engshuber still serves on that six-member body.

No further details were given at the time. But Engshuber told RI: “I have considerable differences of opinion with the Association Board, which is why I resigned as chair.” Engshuber declined to elaborate.

Speaking for the Board, Saunders, told RI: “The PRI Board was not surprised to learn of Mr Engshuber’s decision to step down from his role as Chair. In hindsight, this dual role (of being Council and Board chair) had proven to be very demanding, with extensive signatory and public-facing commitments.”Saunders added: “During a scheduled discussion about succession planning at the joint meeting of the Board and Advisory Council in Tokyo (last March), which was chaired by Mr Engshuber, a decision was taken to split these roles and this was viewed as a workable solution.”

Asked by RI whether Engshuber voiced his opposition to the split during the meeting, Saunders said: “He may have but I can’t exactly recall.”

Meanwhile, the Board is seeking a seventh member whom Saunders said “might become Board chair, if the members recommend that person and the Council gives its approval.”

Engshuber is also stepping down as chair of the Council when his term expires in early 2014. A committee led by Paul Abberley, Head of Investments at Aviva Investors who is also a Council member, is looking for a successor.

Engshuber referred also to what he said were “very regrettable” circumstances surrounding the departure of PRI German network consultant Karin Söllner, which coincided with his resignation. As a part-timer for the PRI, former Munich Re executive Söllner helped recruit around 10 institutional investors in Germany over the last two years, bringing the total to 13.

Saunders said that given budget constraints, the PRI had decided to create one full-time position to support signatories on a pan-European basis instead of having staffers for individual countries. He added: “Karin Söllner made a strong contribution to the growth of the German Network and we are extremely grateful for her efforts.”