In today’s rapidly changing and fast-paced world, the issues that corporate boards all over the world need to contend with seem to become more diverse and complex by the day. Here are some of the ‘hot topics’ board directors need to take cognisance of if they are to remain ahead of the pack:
The Digital Board, Part I
The boards of international companies are on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, they want to be in touch with developments in Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore and Shanghai. On the other, physical attendance by directors is rightly regarded as critical.
Taking the board on the road is time-consuming and expensive while appointing internationally based directors can impose impossible demands on their schedule. It is time boards placed greater emphasis on high-quality telepresence facilities. Large screens. Real-time sound. Pin-sharp definition. 2015 is the year that companies need to invest to make the boardroom a truly digital, and hence global, meeting space.
The Digital Board, Part II
Diversity is all the rage in boardrooms around the world, and quite rightly so. So here’s a thought. Add some non-humans to the mix. Last year a Hong Kong-based venture capital firm appointed a computer algorithm to its board of directors. The company, Deep Knowledge Ventures, said the programme, called Vital, would vote on investment decisions after analysing heaps of data. What’s next, the chairman’s dog to lead the remuneration committee?
Book an economist
The plummeting oil price is bad news for oil and gas producers, and their supply chain. It is good news for consumers. But oil is not the only commodity to be experiencing a plunge in prices. Gold, copper and iron ore have faced similar pressure. And global milk prices reportedly dropped 50% last year. What’s driving the cycle? Will prices recover? If so, when? What’s going on in China? As you put together the schedule for that next board strategic offsite, be sure to book an economist. It’s back-to-school time…
Thanks to pressure from shareholders and other stakeholders, many global nomination committee chairmen will be doing their utmost to ensure they place diverse international candidates. Nothing new in that. We’ve been hearing it for far too long. But who will be most in demand? Technology savvy diverse directors with international expertise from Asia, Europe and the Middle East & Africa.
Cybersecurity – the next crisis?
Corporate governance improvements have historically been driven by crisis. Think back to Enron and WorldCom – their failures triggered a wave of governance reform that was felt worldwide. So, are boards complacent in the face of threats to cyber security? The issue has been on the risk register for years, and governments have repeatedly highlighted the threats.
But while venture capital money is reportedly flowing into cybersecurity start-ups, are institutional investors sufficiently vigorous in asking boards of directors, as stewards of the company’s assets, what they are doing to protect the business? It will only take one or two catastrophic failures of cyber security to make this the boardroom topic that drowns out all others.
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