On 13 May, we held a virtual graduation ceremony to celebrate the exam success and professional achievements of over 300 graduates and members. As the 2020 graduation and membership ceremony had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, it felt particularly gratifying to welcome so many of our 2019 and 2020 graduates to The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland family. It was also wonderful to have over 20 members join us who were celebrating more than 50 years of membership. Progressing to Associate, Fellow and having such long service shows a commitment to the profession, which is well worth celebrating.
This virtual graduation ceremony was a joyous occasion. Many of our graduates sent in photos of how they would have dressed had they been able to attend a physical event. In fact the photos took me back to my own graduation from university some years ago now when things were so much more formal that our outfits were inspected before we were allowed to graduate. I had less than 20 minutes to sort out some offending green decorations on my black shoes, which had failed to pass muster. Ever the pragmatist, I managed to graduate by colouring them black with a felt tip pen!
Pragmatism is a skill that governance professionals have to call upon regularly. We know how much hard work goes into passing exams at the best of time and managing conditions over the last year will have been particularly trying. Those students who sat our November 2020 examinations, some of whom were delayed from June 2020, had to overcome extra challenges as we switched to online exams, so graduating may well hold extra special meaning for those graduates, our first cohort of online graduates.
Now is an excellent time to graduate as a governance professional. The skills and knowledge required to perform the role are much in demand and the Institute’s qualifications offer opportunities for a long and rewarding career in governance. The fact that we have people with over 50 years’ service in the role exemplifies this.
The past year has demonstrated just how much society needs people who can adapt to change and demonstrate agility. Relevant work experience, technical skills and professional standing are an asset to any employer. There is no organisation where governance is not a priority and if governance is not of a high enough quality then sustainability is in jeopardy. The fact that many of our graduates will be sitting around a board table observing directors setting strategy and monitoring the implementation of that strategy is an exciting prospect.
There has always been a significant level of attention paid to how organisations perform, but now the focus on how organisations behave has never been higher. Post-pandemic there will be strong attention on how companies treat their stakeholders and governance professionals have a vital role to play in advising their boards on this. Regulatory and reporting requirements never stay still and the environment that we operate in is constantly evolving. Big data and the pros and cons of the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on board decision making are increasingly important areas of focus for those operating within the governance space.
The past year has also shone a spotlight on previously hidden contractual and reputational risks which boards will have to grapple with and which will have an ongoing impact. At our Annual Conference in July, we will be delving into what the pandemic has changed for organisations, what it means for them to be judged on their ethical behaviour, how risks have developed and the impact of technological advances including AI. It is an exciting time to be a governance professional and the Institute is here to accompany its members and all those working in governance at every stage in their career.
Sara Drake, Chief Executive, The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland