At Hermes we have long held the belief that the financial system should operate in the interests of its ultimate asset owners, not its various agents. We also recognise that the decisions financial practitioners make on how to invest beneficiaries’ money entrusted to them shapes the society they will live in. Further, we argue that the differentiation between ‘shareholders’ and ‘stakeholders’ which is often produced to justify the status quo is inherently false. Today, the majority of shares are owned (through savings and pensions) by the very people who make up what we think of as societal stakeholders. That the majority of these same stakeholders perceive the ‘system’ to have failed them is becoming increasingly clear around the developed world and has been noted by many, most recently here by the Prime Minister.
I propose in my paper entitled “The Why Question”, that the current ‘professional’ understanding of investment theory which seems to frame the financial world almost as entirely separate from the real world that ordinary investors and beneficiaries live and work in was a main contributory factor to the crises in 2008 and the increasing level of public distrust towards business and finance that resulted from it, and which is threatening the sustainability of the free market model.