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Feb 21, 2016

Who’s who in governance: Bess Joffe of TIAA-CREF

With companies and investors increasingly talking about governance, IROs should add these names to their contact list

Bess Joffe, head of corporate governance, TIAA-CREF
Engagement is central to Bess Joffe’s role at TIAA-CREF. ‘I make sure that in the course of the year we’re talking to and building the right relationships within the management team and the board of directors at our top 50-150 companies,’ she says.

Bess Joffe of TIAA-CREFJoffe, who joined TIAA-CREF in the summer of 2014, understands IR because her previous role at Goldman Sachs was to build relationships with governance-focused shareholders. ‘Investor relations has a pivotal role to play in identifying the key shareholders management should be meeting with on an annual basis,’ she says.

She also points out that savvy IROs can help put shareholder concerns in context. ‘If you meet with 20 different governance-focused shareholders, you’ll get 20 different top priorities,’ she says.

• TIAA-CREF votes at 11,000-plus meetings a year for nearly 10,000 companies around the world.

• Proxy access and board diversity and inclusion are top governance priorities at TIAA-CREF.

• IROs need to understand that ‘if it’s proxy season and we don’t have any issues with a company, we will decline a call,’ says Joffe. ‘Even if it’s with a director or a chairman or a CEO – if there are no issues, there are no issues.’

• Outside of work, Joffe enjoys spending time with her husband and two-year-old daughter.