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Governance: It's All About Engagement #cgconf13

Posted on March 15, 2013 at 2:30 PM

It's rare to enjoy an entire day at a conference, especially if you're me.

But yesterday's 5th ICSA corporate governance conference - to be found at Twitter #cgconf13 - was testimony to its hard work and determination to make corporate governance live up to its exciting potential.

(Note: I have written for an ICSA publication and been paid for it .But I am not now - and I am a long way from being uncritical. To do what they do effectively in the existing climate sometimes it's safer to be boring. There is often also a historical disconnect between their membership and their aspirations. But here they were inspired- they picked the best 'others' to do the very best of the talking).

With Lord Paul Myners giving the keynote address and Professor Andrew Kakabadse of Cranfield University's School of Management closing, there was never any doubt that we would operate within an orbit of strong views, forcefully expressed. Which is good, because it is easy to get complacent about governance, when in fact you need to be constantly on your toes. When my fingers had a moment's respite from sending out the messages from #cgconf13 they hastened to share 'UK launches unit to tackle cyber crime' in the FT.

We also had the benefit of perspective after two decades - with two of the members of the original Cadbury committee, Professor Sir Andrew Likierman and Nigel Macdonald and corporate governance historian Professor Laura Spira to look back and remind how it was...

We've come a long way from Cadbury, when it was a conscious decision to avoid focusing the agenda on 'pay'. The international influence of Cadbury was also significant.

Without going into specifics and detail here - for some of which keep your eye on the FT NED Club site as well as the FT Executive Appointments series on Better Boards - here are just some observations made and questions asked at the conference that are well worth thinking about:


  • lessons of the 'shareholder spring' FTSE100 plcs need to better engage with investors
  • engagement and a focus on 'strategy' is critical for NEDs
  • plcs not engaging with investors leads to a rise in risk, cost and new perspectivs
  • there is strong evidence to suggest NEDs in the UK know very little about the plcs on whose boards they sit
  • why is it that NEDs don't regularly meet institutional investors if they do so at all
  • to what extent are 'board evaluations' a farce
  • how are we doing on 'stewardship' - is it just a very small minority that takes it seriously - and is it sensible to do it on a 'paid' basis
  • what happens next on audit and reporting
  • do boards still spend far too much time on operational rather than strategic issues
  • the need to 'send the elevator back down' to replenish the boardroom - and the role of diversity
  • the role of the company secretary needs to be upgraded and better used 
  • the role of the chairman : do they essentially appoint the NEDs in the UK (with the help of their favoured headhunters) in which case: are they independent - and can we learn from other countries?


Lots to think about. Here's some weekend reading -

You'll find the ICSA guidance Enhancing Stewardship Dialogue hot off the press here.

And I attended an excellent interactive workshop on crisis management given by Richard Sykes and Dr Paul Robertson of PwC. They cited this publication by Airmic  - 'Roads to Ruin....A study of major risk events - their origins, impact and implications'

If in any danger of complacency tucked up on a Friday evening, just think 'cyberattack.'

Categories: Communication, Stewardship, Investors