Proxy firm ISS buys BlackRock-backed governance start-up iiWisdom

Acquisition of two-year-old company where fund giant’s Edkins is a director

US proxy firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has acquired iiWisdom, a San Francisco-based governance solutions business where BlackRock is a lead investor and holds a board seat via its global head of corporate governance and responsible investment, Michelle Edkins.

BlackRock was a founding investor in iiWisdom, which at one time counted ISS founder Bob Monks as a director.

Advisory board members at launch included asset owner figures such as Aeisha Mastagni of CalSTRS, Carol Drake Nolan (OhioPERS) and Mike McCauley (Florida State Board of Administration).

iiWisdom was set up in 2014 by David Weil, a former mergers-and-acquisitions banker at Credit Suisse and Merrill Lynch. It provides investors with proxy information of participating public companies through an online interactive portal.

The company also holds investor-corporate events; its next ‘Engagement Summit’ takes place in New York in October, with speakers including Edkins as well as senior figures from investors including Wellington, JP Morgan, TIAA
and Northern Trust. There’s a keynote session with William McNabb, Chairman and CEO of Vanguard.As a result of the acquisition, ISS intends to offer interactive proxy statements to companies through its subsidiary, ISS Corporate Solutions, and further develop iiWisdom’s offering to include the provision of thought leadership on global governance and responsible investment topics. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Stephen Harvey, Chief Operating Officer of ISS, said: “Proxy reports are an increasingly important tool for communicating company governance practices and fostering dialogue. The provision of these reports in a format consistent with investor workflows allows for better communication between companies and their institutional investors and fits naturally into our mission to provide high quality interactive data aimed at facilitating dialogue and empowering investors in their decision making.”

Weil, who was also CEO of iiWisdom, said: “We are delighted to pass the baton to ISS and are confident they will continue to provide state of the art communications solutions to iiWisdom clients.” Weil is also an advisor to private equity firm Warburg Pincus, according to his LinkedIn page.

Last September, ISS acquired Ethix SRI Advisors of Sweden – a deal seen as a way to get a strong foothold in Scandinavia. ISS is owned by private equity firm Vestar Capital Partners, which bought it in 2014 from MSCI for $364m.