At first, it was health and safety officers that were tagged the ‘business prevention team’ then it was compliance officers. But today it seems to be the corporate governance team that has inherited that particularly unwelcome moniker.
At the same time, if we are to believe our news headlines of corporate and charitable governance scandals and falling levels of trust, things are steadily getting worse.
So is corporate governance an enabler or a blocker?
For me, life is so often a pendulum that swings from one extreme to another, seldom managing to settle in the centre, and the same goes for corporate governance.
Rather than the ever-growing corporate governance reports tabled at board and trustee meetings, perhaps if we unpicked a number of recurring themes, we might find some clarity.
Poor board composition
There is considerable discussion around board composition (executive/non-executive, diversity of gender, ethnicity, skills, backgrounds etc.) but for me, the key question should, and must, be how effective a board is. I would go so far as to say that if a board is truly effective, then by its very nature, it will have a diverse and inclusive board on all measures and representing key stakeholders.
Lack of effectiveness
The benefits of an effective board are of course endless, the very purpose of a board being to support the executive to fulfil the organisation’s objectives, whether to benefit the shareholders or other stakeholders through widening the knowledge base, introducing fresh, innovative ideas and ensuring sound governance etc.
I am sure many of us have read (or not perhaps entirely beyond the executive summaries?) extensive reports tabled at board meetings only to wonder what value is being added through them. One such exercise that struggles to be taken seriously is the annual board appraisal. These forms are often circulated by the company secretary or administrator and completed by individual directors with varying levels of attention to detail. These things can, of course, be tricky, balancing honesty with a constructive approach, whilst ensuring ongoing relationships!
The wrong chair
Similarly is the vital role that a chair plays. I am not thinking so much as the chair of a meeting, more the role of a chairperson in the stewardship and leadership of the organisation. It is properly said that the relationship between the chair and CEO is critical to success; equally, the partnership with the board is critical for the effectiveness of the board.
How corporate governance can become an enabler
So, what is to be done? At Aspida Group, we have built our reputation for pragmatic and proactive compliance solutions over the last 20 years. Being leaders to the idea that effective compliance would be an enabler to your organisation, not a block, we are therefore pleased to have identified the similar need within corporate governance in providing pragmatic support and advice at a board and senior management level across a diverse range of businesses and organisations. Our services include reviews, board advisory support and company secretarial services where required.
Let Aspida elevate your corporate governance from a blocker to an enabler.
Wayne Bulpitt CBE
The author, Wayne Bulpitt CBE, is Joint Chair of Aspida and an experienced corporate and charity sector leader.