PRI Advisory Council candidate profile: Mark Chaloner, West Midlands Pension Fund

RI profiles of the seven candidates for the open PRI Advisory Council seats.

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Mark Chaloner, Assistant Director (Investments), West Midlands Pension Fund
Mark is one of three candidates standing for the two asset owner positions on the PRI Advisory Council.

RI suggested some prompt questions for the candidates:
1. Where (with examples) do you think your experience fits, and might enhance, the remit of the PRI Advisory Council?
2. What are the issues you will be campaigning on/pushing as an Advisory Council member, why, and how?
3. What is your vision of the future direction of the PRI and how can you contribute to its realization?

Mark Chaloner
I would first like to highlight where I think my experience fits, and might enhance, the remit of the PRI Advisory Council:
• Policy formulation – as an active member of the Church Ethical Investment Advisory Group.
• Implementation – as an investment manager both at the Church of England and West Midlands Pension Fund, and in both direct portfolio management as well as the oversight of external fund managers across different asset classes. Stemming from the above experience, I have had exposure to different RI styles and appetites.
• Recruitment and management of senior RI staff both at the Church and West Midlands.
• Collaboration – working with other investors on RI, notably as steering group member and vice chair of the ecumenical Church Investors Group.
• Stakeholder engagement – my experience at the Church and in a large pension fund has provided a wide perspective on all sorts of RI issues over time, including appreciation of different points of view and how to manage/ handle those differences.
I feel this potential opportunity is pivotal given the proposed governance changes to the PRI which I feel, on balance, will add value for our signatory base. I particularly welcome the proposed commitment to bringother dimensions of diversity to the board other than regions/markets. Following from that, I would particularly like to champion signatories who are in an earlier to middle stage of their responsible investment journey, as I feel that they represent the majority of our signatory base. Where the RI leaders are faced with the practical challenges of how to implement responsible investment across asset classes, investment styles and so on, the remaining signatories may be faced with particular behavioural/cultural (“buy-in”) challenges where the PRI could offer significant support. I see this very much as a critical mass issue; with the help of these signatories, the agenda stands a chance of significantly moving forward like never before. Whilst the presence of global RI leaders is absolutely crucial to the agenda, an ever widening gap between them and the rest of us is not!
Some example of PRI initiatives that I feel would empower this target group would be:
1. Offering trustee or executive training programs to pension funds on the value of a responsible investment strategy
2. Offering signatories more assistance on how to practically challenge the status quo in the investment decision making process
3. Organizing more local network roundtable events which can help demonstrate the usefulness of the PRI’s clearinghouse platform and implementation support.
In terms of my vision for the future direction of the PRI, it would come as no surprise that I completely endorse the PRI’s enhanced focus on asset owners, who sit on the top of the investment chain with the most – unrealised – potential to reshape capital markets. The PRI’s increased focus on research and public policy is also a necessary complement to the above focus, to foster long-termism within financial markets and improve the alignment of interests across the investment chain. To support those two strategic aims, I can envision the PRI dividing their resources in two distinct areas in the coming years:
1. Empowering the signatory base who are in earlier stages of their RI journey, as I discussed above; and,
2. Leveraging their signatory base to promote the alignment the interests across the investment chain at the public policy or market level.
I feel that my particular experience as highlighted above would serve the PRI well in fulfilling their mission.