The important role of CSR in the economic and financial realm is now plain to see and we are convinced that we must continue to make further inroads in this regard to create value for our business and for society. We have therefore continued to roll out initiatives to create new platforms and new opportunities to enhance the financing capacity of companies, thus making them more sustainable and helping them expand and grow.
Antonio Zoido, BME's Chairman.
This is the best way we can support CSR and is the focal point of our broader contribution to improving the quality of the economic and financial system and part of our bid to champion social and personal progress as we create a business fabric that is ever more secure, solid, sustainable and citizen-oriented.
Thanks to this new approach of making the markets more involved in financing the business world, our Stock Market was able to channel upwards of 40 billion euros towards companies in 2015, marking a 23% year-on-year improvement, and this figure climbs to 215 billion over the last five years. We have also managed to attract an increasing number of foreigners and individuals to our institution as they look to invest and maximise returns on their savings.
This has helped reassure families of what the Stock Market has to offer, by helping them grow their financial wealth. Interestingly, households now own 26% of all listed shares quoted on the Spanish stock market, the highest level we have seen in the past 12 years and double the average for the European Union as a whole.
We are particularly proud to have maintained once again our return on capital and we are one of the listed companies with the highest pay-outs. We view this remuneration policy as a means of returning value to our Shareholders, especially minority Shareholders, who already number close to 50,000 and account for roughly 95% of total Shareholders; and also as a means of showing how the securities markets can help improve the quality of life among the public.
We are continuing to strengthen our presence and involvement in different forums for discussing and sharing thoughts on the economy and the progress being made by companies and investors alike. As is traditional each year, we organised the Latibex Forum and the MEDCAP Forum, which have become meeting points for companies and investors from both sides of the Atlantic, including the United States, Canada and numerous European and emerging nations. We are also collaborating with a host of different universities, educational centres and associations on various activities and programmes to provide training and information.
Of special mention here was our key involvement in 2015 in organising and staging the first “Financial Education Day”, which was held on 5 October. It is an initiative of the Bank of Spain (Banco de España), the Spanish Securities Market Supervisor (CNMV) and the General Directorate for Insurance and falls within the Financial Education Plan (FEP), to which we are adhered alongside numerous other institutions.
Further highlights included the “The Future of Women in Finance” event with CFA Society Spain, which was held at the Palace of the Stock Exchange to address women’s current position in the industry, the advantages that diversity can have for companies, and the strategies for each stage of their career.
Also in 2015, and to support research work in the financial realm, we sponsored the awards ceremony of the Spanish Finance Association for the best projects in the categories of Equities, Fixed Income and Derivative Products. The prizes were handed out at the XXIII Finance Forum, the annual flagship event in the field of financial research, which was organised this year round by Universidad Pontificia de Comillas.
On the subject of culture, the year saw us strike up a sponsorship partnership with the Spanish National Archaeological Museum. The public institution has undergone a major facelift and is now appealingly modern, offering the public a glimpse at the objects that once belonged to the different people of what is now Spain and the Mediterranean region, ranging from the ancient past to more recent times, and also providing an interpretation of what they signify. In addition, we remain a member of the Friends of the Prado Museum Foundation, a sponsoring partner of the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, and an partner of the Teatro Real in Madrid. Through the Bilbao stock exchange, BME is also a strategic patron of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
For the second straight year we have made an important contribution in the field of social welfare by helping the Food Bank acquire new machinery for its storage centres.
As part of our policy of open communication and transparency, we stepped up our presence across the social networks in 2015 in a bid to provide a non-stop flow of information with the different social groups so as to better gauge their needs and expectations and offer them the information they need. We are now one of the most active companies when it comes to reporting the business of the General Shareholders Meeting. On top of this, we have numerous otherchannels of communication in place to ensure that Shareholders, investors, the press and analysts are all fully involved in our activities and in the life of our company.
In 2015 we took a further step forward in showing our commitment to CSR by joining the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative, led by United Nations to raise awareness of good corporate governance and CSR and champion sustainable business practices within the realm of the securities markets. We are also continuing to support other initiatives in this field such as the UN Global Compact, and we remain firmly adhered to the Carbon Disclosure Project and the Spanish Code of Good Tax Practices, among others, illustrating our desire to improve transparency, good governance and the protection of the environment and natural resources.
The initiatives we have undertaken ourselves or which we are helping towards in the realm of CSR are a clear example of our commitment to ensuring the sustainability of the business world and employment and protecting the values underpinning them, while also illustrating our desire to construct a better environment for everyone.
Antonio J. Zoido