Archive for the ‘The Board’ Tag
For many years, I have said that the major focus of business throughout the 20th century was professional management – new management theories, management schools, management consultants, and management gurus – whereas the focus for the 21st century would be governance. I think we can safely say that this has happened.
Unfortunately, in the process some people are now conflating the two quite different concepts: ‘management’ and ‘governance.’ There is talk about ‘the importance of governance in the NHS’ when the issue is mainly management. Even the UK government’s consultation on the green paper on the review of corporate governance (see Chris Mallin’s most recent blog) writes: ‘The purpose of corporate governance is to facilitate effective, entrepreneurial, and prudent management that can deliver the long-term success of a company.’
If ‘management’ and ‘governance.’ are used interchangeably, the fundamental distinction between the two is lost. The notion of management as a hierarchy is commonplace: the classical management pyramid showing a chief executive officer, or managing director, with overall managerial responsibility and the reporting relationships of the managers down the management hierarchy. Authority and responsibility are delegated downwards, with matching accountability expected upwards.
The board of directors seldom appears- because the board is not part of the management structure; nor is it a hierarchy. Each director has equal responsibility and similar duties and powers under the law. There is no executive ‘boss’ of a board. In a unitary board, that is a board with both executive and non-executive outside directors, the executive directors hold managerial roles in addition to their responsibilities as directors. As executives, they are employees of the company and employment laws apply. Directors, as such, are not employees and company laws apply. Executive directors, of course, wear two hats: and are subject to both company law and employment law.
In the two-tier board structure, the executive board consists entirely of executives and is responsible for management. The supervisory board consists entirely of outside members and is responsible for governance, including the hiring and firing of management.
In other words, management is responsible for running the business. The board is responsible for its governance, ensuring that the corporate strategy is appropriate and being achieved, that corporate policies are in place, overseeing management’s performance, and being accountable to investors and other legitimate stakeholders. Briefly, management runs the business; the board ensures that it is being well run and achieving is objectives. The concepts and the responsibilities of management and governance are quite different. To conflate the two invites confusion.
-Bob Tricker, 2017
There has been much emphasis on the importance and value of board diversity. However the focus has generally tended to be on gender diversity, for example, in the UK the Davies Report (2011) recommended that representation of women on FTSE 100 boards be increased to at least 25% by 2015. By 2015 this 25% target had been exceeded with FTSE 100 boards having 26.1% of women on the board.
Various corporate governance codes and guidelines have stated that firms should have a ‘balanced board’. In 2014, when updating the UK Corporate Governance Code, the Financial Reporting Council pointed out that constructive and challenging debate on the board can be encouraged ‘through having sufficient diversity on the board. This includes, but is not limited to, gender and race. Diverse board composition in these respects is not on its own a guarantee. Diversity is as much about differences of approach and experience, and it is very important in ensuring effective engagement with key stakeholders and in order to deliver the business strategy’.
‘A Report into the Ethnic Diversity of UK Boards: Beyond One by ’21’
Earlier this month The Parker Review Committee, chaired by Sir John Parker, issued ‘A Report into the Ethnic Diversity of UK Boards: Beyond One by ’21’.
Starting from the premise that UK boardrooms, including those of leading public companies, do not reflect the UK’s ethnic diversity nor the stakeholders that companies engage with (customers, employees, etc.), the Parker Report states that ‘ethnic minority representation in the Boardrooms across the FTSE 100 is disproportionately low, especially when looking at the number of UK citizen directors of colour’. For example, the Report highlights that of 1087 director positions in the FTSE 100, UK citizen directors of colour represent only about 1.5% of the total director population with 90 individual directors of colour (four hold two Board positions) whilst total directors of colour represent about 8% of the total (compared to 14% of the UK population). Some 53 FTSE 100 companies do not have any directors of colour. Seven companies account for over 40% of the directors of colour, interestingly five out of the seven companies have headquarters historically located outside the UK. In terms of the key board roles of Chair and CEO, only nine people of colour hold the position of Chair or CEO.
The Parker Report’s recommendations can be found at http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/A_Report_into_the_Ethnic_Diversity_of_UK_Boards/$FILE/Beyond%20One%20by%2021%20PDF%20Report.pdf and are as follows:
- Increase the Ethnic Diversity of UK Boards
1.1. Each FTSE 100 Board should have at least one director of colour by 2021; and each FTSE 250 Board should have at least one director of colour by 2024.
1.2. Nomination committees of all FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies should require their internal human resources teams or search firms (as applicable) to identify and present qualified people of colour to be considered for Board appointment when vacancies occur.
1.3. Given the impact of the ‘Standard Voluntary Code of Conduct’ for executive search firms in the context of gender-based recruitment, we recommend that the relevant principles of that code be extended on a similar basis to apply to the recruitment of minority ethnic candidates as Board directors of FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies.
- Develop Candidates for the Pipeline & Plan for Succession
2.1. Members of the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 should develop mechanisms to identify, develop and promote people of colour within their organisations in order to ensure over time that there is a pipeline of Board capable candidates and their managerial and executive ranks appropriately reflect the importance of diversity to their organisation.
2.2. Led by Board Chairs, existing Board directors of the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 should mentor and/or sponsor people of colour within their own companies to ensure their readiness to assume senior managerial or executive positions internally, or non-executive Board positions externally.
2.3. Companies should encourage and support candidates drawn from diverse backgrounds, including people of colour, to take on Board roles internally (e.g., subsidiaries) where appropriate, as well as Board and trustee roles with external organisations (e.g., educational trusts, charities and other not-for-profit roles). These opportunities will give experience and develop oversight, leadership and stewardship skills.
- Enhance Transparency & Disclosure
3.1. A description of the Board’s policy on diversity be set out in a company’s annual report, and this should include a description of the company’s efforts to increase, amongst other things, ethnic diversity within its organisation, including at Board level.
3.2. Companies that do not meet Board composition recommendations by the relevant date should disclose in their annual report why they have not been able to achieve compliance.
At the UK’s Conservative Party conference, in early October 2016, the Prime Minister, Mrs. Theresa May, raised some significant corporate governance issues:
‘So if you’re a boss who earns a fortune but doesn’t look after your staff, an international company that treats the tax laws as an optional extra…a director who takes out massive dividends while knowing that the company pension scheme is about to go bust, I’m putting you on warning…’
Each of these issues has been discussed in recent blogs. But she also suggested that workers should be appointed to boards of directors. As could be predicted, this suggestion was welcomed by the Trades Union Council but raised alarm in some British boardrooms.
But we have been here before. Extracts from Corporate Governance: Principles, Policies, and Practices (3rd ed., 2015, pages 12 and 85) explain why:
‘In the 1970s, the European Economic Community (EEC), now the European Union, issued a series of draft directives on the harmonization of company law throughout the member states. The Draft Fifth Directive (1972) proposed that all large companies in the EEC should adopt the two-tier board form of governance, with both executive and supervisory boards. In other words, the two-tier board form of governance practised in Germany and Holland, would replace the British model of the unitary board, in which both executive and outside directors oversee management and are responsible for seeing that the business is being well run and run in the right direction.
In the two-tier form of governance, companies have two distinct boards, with no common membership. The upper, supervisory board monitors and oversees the work of the executive or management board, which runs the business. The supervisory board has the power to hire and fire the members of the executive board.
Moreover, in addition to the separation of powers, the draft directive included employee representatives on the supervisory board. In the German supervisory board, one half of the members represent the shareholders. The other half are chosen under the co-determination laws through the employees’ trades’ union processes. This reflects the German belief in co-determination, in which companies are seen as social partnerships between capital and labour.
The UK’s response was a Committee chaired by Sir Alan Bullock (later Lord Bullock), the renowned historian and Master of Saint Catherine’s College, Oxford. His report – Industrial Democracy (1977) – and its research papers (1976) were the first serious corporate governance study in Britain, although the phrase ‘corporate governance’ was not then in use. The Committee proposed that the British unitary board be maintained, but that some employee directors be added to the board to represent worker interests.
The Bullock proposals were not well received in Britain’s boardrooms. The unitary board was seen, at least by directors, as a viable system of corporate governance. Workers had no place in the boardroom, they felt. A gradual move towards industrial democracy through participation below board level was preferable.
Neither the EEC’s proposal for supervisory boards nor worker directors became law in the UK. Since then, the company law harmonization process in the EU has been overtaken by social legislation, including the requirement that all major firms should have a works council through which employees can participate in significant strategic developments and changes in corporate policy.’
Proponents of industrial democracy still argue that governing a major company requires an informal partnership between labour and capital, so employees should participate in corporate governance. Maybe an extension of the Shareholder Senate idea, suggested in a recent blog, called a Stakeholder Senate could provide another forum to inform, liaise with, and influence the board.
Bob Tricker October 2016