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Modern Governance expert panel report #4: Closing thoughts

Modern Governance is “The practice of empowering leaders with the technology, insights, and processes required to fuel good governance”.

In practice, it means adopting a single, unified software platform to manage all aspects of governance, including board papers, minutes, secure communications, voting, collaboration tools, document sharing and more.

The best of these platforms bring much more to the table as they include analytics tools to interrogate the data they manage, revealing hidden connections and even discovering new risks and business opportunities that may otherwise have gone undiscovered.

They’re necessary because the digital age has brought challenges as well as benefits. The panel at Diligent’s Modern Governance roadshow’s Sydney edition was on hand to share their insights, take questions from the audience and trade boardroom ‘war stories’. They were:

  • Jane Bowd: Group Company Secretary & Corporate Counsel at Coca-Cola Amatil
  • Andrew Horne: Corporate Governance Professional, Lawyer, Chair and Non-Executive Director
  • Melissa Jones: General Manager at Company Matters, a member of the Link Group
  • Mathew Ronald: Director, EY and Board, Governance, and People adviser

This blog is a condensed and edited slice of their discussion.

For this last instalment of our series on our recent Modern Governance roadshow’s Sydney panel, we thought we’d hand the floor over entirely to the panellists.

After a lively and insightful discussion, it was time to bring proceedings to a close. The panellists were asked for some final thoughts and parting advice for their fellow governance professionals. Here’s what they said.

Matthew Ronald

It’s a great time to be a governance professional in this country.

Matthew focused on the sheer volume of change coming to industries as diverse as financial services, aged care, government and cricket. Governance professionals have their work cut out for them in improving their organisation’s governance performance.

Things are going to change, and governance professionals have a unique opportunity to shape their organisations and improve their governance. Boards, regulators and stakeholders are all focused on improvement, which creates space for change and an appetite to improve.

This is our opportunity to really make a difference.

Melissa Jones

The role of the CoSec and the governance professional has never been harder.

Melissa agreed with Matthew’s comments about now being an important time for governance to come to the fore. She noted that in the 20 years she’s been practising, she’d never seen a tougher environment, with pressure and scrutiny on boards. No one wants to put a foot wrong, and the fear of media exposure is palpable.

Her practical advice was simple: communicate. She recommends talking to directors, other CoSecs and team members, to discover what’s working and what isn’t.

See what other people are doing because I don’t think people working in a silo or in isolation are going to be able to solve it.

Jane Bowd

You have to make sure that your boards are properly preparing themselves.

Jane took us back to the board room. Governance professionals must ensure their directors are planning for disruption, positive about facing challenges, and actively preparing to meet the organisation’s short- and long-term goals.

At a foundational level, instilling the right culture and the right disciplines is the key to success as, without these, boards risk being un-focused and un-aware of their challenges and risks.

Having the discipline and forcing your board to actually plan for those types of disruption scenarios is important … I don’t think all boards do that.

Andrew Horne

It’s an exciting time to be a governance professional, but the onus is on us now.

Andrew looked at things from a personal skills perspective. He sounded a note of caution, reminding the room that they must develop the skill of quickly identifying directors who haven’t embraced the company’s values.

He also called for more joint training with board members and CoSecs. The goal is to ensure perspectives are aligned, and for governance professionals to become trusted collaborators and advisors to their boards.

We should be doing more training jointly with the board to make sure it’s a more effective organisation.

Diligent was most appreciative of our four panellists, who have up their time and generously shared their experiences and advice. Key Diligent team members were on hand to listen and learn; if you’d like to discuss any of the ideas raised in this article or its companions, we’d love to talk.

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