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Is it time for a seat on the Board?

22/05/18 Greg McHugh Head of Training & Acquisition

The boardroom is one of the places where character and experience reign supreme. Landing a board member role can be a prestigious and lucrative venture.

International experience, industry knowledge, understanding risk and technology issues, and personal traits that range from intellectual curiosity to unassailable integrity are just some of the qualities and qualifications that executive candidates seeking board seats should possess. That long list of requirements combined with the fact that board’s seats don’t become available all that often, can make securing such a position difficult. On the plus side, many organisations are casting a wider net as they broaden their definition of diversity.

Greg McHugh, Redline Executive Search Partner discusses further: “Board composition and diversity are hot topics in the executive search sector because there is a strong emphasis on ensuring appropriate representation and skills in the boardroom,” says Greg. “Clearly this involves traditional views of diversity, such as gender, race and ethnicity,” he added, “but there’s also a growing emphasis on ensuring that there’s the right generational diversity in the boardroom, as well as diversity of perspective, experience and skills.”

According to PWC’s report: ‘A look at board composition’ it reported that a number of boards were taking measures to refresh its board members. Many have taken on the gender imbalance on their boards and are adding more women directors. But diversity isn’t only about women. It’s about race, ethnicity, skills, experience, expertise, age and even geography. It’s about diversity of thought and perspective.

Who is the ideal board candidate of today?

Some emerging criteria for new board members include experience with digital business and risk in the B2B and B2C arenas. Many companies are also interested in adding an investor perspective to the board, by directors who come from an investment, asset management or private equity background. These types of candidates understand what the markets are looking for regarding company performance.

The personality of a board member is collaborative and outspoken. They possess financial and operating acumen and must have a proven track record of excellence in their field. If you are currently in a Vice President, Senior Vice President, CEO, or any other C-suite executive role, you are a on the right track because you are already working closely with your organisation’s board and you are already a leader in your field.

Just like when you made the leap to the executive-level, you will find that landing your first board role is the harder still.  While you are working, you can take your time looking for the right role that matches your skillset and hear about more opportunities by utilising your network while it is at its strongest. After landing your first board role while you are employed, you can then line up more advanced board opportunities when you are ready to retire.

Qualities and characteristics of future board members

Personal integrity - This is the first quality a board looks for when considering a candidate and it should be considered the price of entry. All candidates for board seats need to have demonstrably strong values, ethics and integrity.

Diversity of thought - Forward-looking boards recognise that diversity is a competitive weapon in many ways. It’s not just ethnic and gender diversity, but passport diversity—meaning a director might come from some other part of the world than where the company is headquartered—or they might bring experience from other industries and disciplines.

Continuous learning - Organisations seek directors who demonstrate intellectual curiosity about—and passion for—the business, and remain fully engaged at all times.

Fiduciary duties - It is essential to have a baseline of financial acumen in order to serve as a fiduciary for shareholders and stakeholders. Executives who are interested in serving on boards and feel they lack that baseline knowledge might consider enrolling in classes or ensure that they get exposure to the P&L and the balance sheet in their day-to-day work life.

Being selected for a corporate board seat can be a rewarding experience, but positions are not always easy to come by. If you have the right skills and you actively pursue opportunities, it can be a dynamic way to accelerate your career, make a contribution and make a difference.

To find out more about Executive and Board roles, click here. Should you need assistance to identify and recruit a Board Member, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Executive Search team on +44(0)203 131 0019 or email GMcHugh@RedlineExecutive.com.