What Every Director Should Be Thinking About


What Every Director Should Be Thinking About


I like being an alumnus of PwC, as a retired partner (partners always retire they never resign or get sold to IBM or any of the other things that could happen) I get invited to some interesting sessions.  PwC Australia recently had a half-day workshop focused on the top things that directors (executives and non-executive members of a board) should be aware.  It was a little like speed dating as there were many topics to select; each participant was able to attend three at 20 minutes per session.  But there was an excellent summary at the end of the day highlighting the critical points made in all the sessions.   I am sure from a PwC perspective it is a very good use of time as they were exposing over 100 executives to a wide variety of topics that PwC could assist the organisation in case they needed help.  A win/win on both sides.  



The workshop started with a presentation by a USA PwC Partner whose focus was corporate governance and boards.  She gave an overview of some of the key trends in boards of USA listed companies.  PwC USA does an annual survey of directors, and you can see the full 2017 results here.  The structure there is very different than the UK or Australia starting with the obvious that the CEO is typically the Chairman of the board, something that does not frequently happen in Europe or Asia.  The other comparison is that the average tenure of a board member in Australia and Europe is about six years, while in the USA they get voted on every year.  The shareholder “behaviour” is also different ranging from the influence that institutional investors can have through to hedge fund activities to individual shareholder activities.  All you need is $2,000 of stock, and you can put forward a proposal to the board to consider.  An interesting plenary session that made me appreciate the UK and Australia’s longer-term focus versus the quarterly results driven dynamics in the USA.



After the plenary session, there was a wide variety of short breakout session that could be attended.  Here is a summary of a few of the topics that were available as part of the breakout sessions: -



Leveraging Data – what data assets do you have inside the company that can be leveraged either internally or externally? The recommended place to start was standardising the language inside the company around data.  Is a sale the same definition in all parts of the company?  How about an employee?



Crisis Management – as an executive you never know when a genuine crisis will hit whether it is an environmental one such as extreme weather or #MeToo type of event.  As an executive team, you need to know how you are going to respond.  Two points out of this session for me were “how do you know when you are in a crisis – as sometimes it is not obvious until it is too late” and the other was “conduct simulations on how the company and members of the leadership team will respond”. 



Cyber Security – as a member of the board if you are not asking questions about the preparedness for a cyber-attack or ransom request then you are not performing your role.  Again, for me, there were two key points; cyber-security is as much about people as it is technology and the market will judge you in how you respond.  The communication and the need to re-establish trust if something happens is almost more critical then stopping the attack.



Diversity – the focus of this session was the need to be more inclusive and consider all the different aspects of diversity.  Especially in Australia where there is a need to focus on cultural and linguistically different diversity.



Marketing – The role of a CMO has radically changed over the last five years.  As a member of the board, how do you know that the marketing activities and the focus of the CMO are going to drive sales and protect the brand?  Metrics reported to the board was my takeaway from this session.  Do you have metrics at the board level that give insight on marketing’s contribution to brand awareness and overall business performance (demand generation and sales)?



The workshop was valuable and the networking with other directors very useful to get their experiences and lessons learned. 



Article by Mary Sue Rogers



Posted on : 2018/09/06