Survey: Boards Seek Industry Experience in New Directors

New York — Jan. 9

A new report issued by the Deloitte Center for Corporate Governance and the Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals indicates the top attribute sought in new directors is industry experience, as board subject matter knowledge comes to the fore.

In addition, more corporate board members are engaging directly with shareholders. Other shifts in board practices include an increased length and frequency of board meetings and more actively reviewed CEO succession policies.

These are among the findings from the “2012 Board Practices Report: Providing insight into the shape of things to come.” Based on the responses of nearly 200 corporate secretaries, the report focuses on more than 15 board practice areas among public, private and nonprofit organizations. It explores topics such as risk oversight, board use of technology, corporate responsibility, shareholder engagement and board and committee structures.

The board and company executives at organizations of all sizes reported interaction with shareholders, according to survey respondents. Roughly one-third of small- and mid-cap companies — 38 percent and 33 percent, respectively — reported meeting with up to 5 percent of their shareholders, while 44 percent of large-cap companies reported meeting with more than 20 percent of their shareholders.

Board members have also engaged in direct contact with shareholders. At 55 percent of large-cap companies, at least one director met with a shareholder. At small-cap companies, 58 percent had at least one director meeting with a shareholder. Only 27 percent of mid-cap companies had at least one director-shareholder meeting.

The report also shows nearly half (47 percent) of all respondents stated that industry knowledge is the most important trait they look for in new board members — almost double most other desired skills.

Among public companies, that number rose to 51 percent, with C-level experience as the second most desired attribute (37 percent) for board members, followed by international business exposure (30 percent).

Source: Deloitte