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Sticks And Carrots For The Boardroom

Posted on June 27, 2011 at 11:18 AM

The UK is getting tough on controls on governance. Under proposals in the government's draft financial reform bill, regulators will be able to force any plc to hire external experts to report on controls or governance where there are "questions connected to its listing or transactions." The FT has the story with the details.

Companies will shout at the expense but I for one applaud this and hope these 'external experts' will have to exclude headhunters, particularly those with 'preferred' relationships - as they can't be called truly independent.( I assume it does anyway, because of the kind of expertise needed)

Also in the FT is a story suggesting that radical reforms to insist that a third of the bank board directors in Europe should be women are going to be dropped after wrangling between EU officials.

If it's just about the banking sector I can't say I'm surprised. It goes back to the fact that there is a widespread belief there may well not be enough candidates with the right experience  (although they could be nurtured, mentored, and brought along)......and quotas could place us in an even bigger mess than we already are in the financial sector. But I didn't find the piece clear on this.

Having mentioned banks specifically, and in the headline - 'Quota plan for female bank executives faces axe', it goes on to say that Viviane Reding, the EU's justice commissoner, has been asking for voluntary self-regulation to increase female participation on boards of plcs in general....and has asked for a voluntary commitment to increase it by 30% by 2015 and 40% by 2020. And she's quoted as saying she's no fan of quotas.

So it sounds as if banking is just one sector and would be part of an overall backing down on the idea of quotas to increase female representation. I've never been a fan of quotas myself. The scope for disaster is huge if you focus on anything other than what you need for a role. But that doesn't mean you have to 'tick boxes' in filling every role.

I've spoken to a number of senior women in the UK  recently who all got to where they are because someone - a chairman or a CEO usually - either changed the role in question to hire them, or encouraged them to apply for something because they were hugely qualified, but didn't tick all the boxes. That's what we need more of - lots and lots of it, in the UK and Europe. Alongside formal mentoring and talent development schemes within every plc.

But it will be interesting to see whether, if the 'stick' of EU regulation is removed, the 'carrot' of voluntary commitment retains its flavour in the UK. It would also surely be a good thing if the UK and the rest of Europe agreed on an approach, and drove it together.

And for any punters or headhunters reading.......After 10 years in the role, Betfair CEO David Yu has told the board that he believes it is now the right time for the company to start looking for his successor. Yu does not intend to renew his current contract - which expires in October 2012 - and the board will now begin a search process for a new CEO.

Betfair has two women on its board - Fru Hazlitt and Baroness Denise Kingsmill.

Categories: Governance, Appointments, Women