How CFOs can better support board directors—and vice versa

Posted in Aktuellt, Board work / Styrelsearbete on March 27th, 2018 by admin

Governing boards face increasing pressure and greater scrutiny from investors. Here is how CFOs can reinforce their stewardship.

Has there ever been a time when boards of directors were more in need of the sharp, fact-based counsel of a value-savvy CFO? With market forces intensifying, technology creating broad-scale digital disruption, and systemic threats looming in the form of cyber and geopolitical shifts, even the best-positioned board directors can benefit from a strong relationship with the head of finance. That is even truer for directors selected more for their industry, product, or technical expertise, for example, than their financial acumen.

Fortunately, CFOs at most large companies are more than up to the task and go well beyond the traditional role of helping boards ensure regulatory compliance. Yet we still see CFOs—typically those who are new to the role—who are unpracticed at engaging their board directors effectively. While our experience in the United States is the primary basis for this finding, the differences between companies in any given country can be just as substantial as the differences between countries. It all comes down to the individual CFO, CEO, and board.

Understanding the link between board effectiveness and financial performance
Regardless of where they sit, many CFOs should spend more time helping board directors understand a company’s strategy and defining value creation in the context of both the financial outcomes of the past and forecasts of future performance. The lessons go both ways: CFOs can benefit from effective relationships with board directors—particularly with the chair of the audit committee, who can share external perspectives and act as a thought leader and sparring partner. CFOs should be more assertive in anticipating questions from the board and providing the needed information to connect data to strategic and operating decisions. And CFOs should more actively collaborate with the CEO and other executives to present a unified perspective to the board. As our research suggests, improved board effectiveness can also result in better financial performance (see sidebar, “Understanding the link between board effectiveness and financial performance”).

Define value creation in context
The traditional role of the CFO is to go through the results with the board, explain what happened, and look at the variances versus the prior period. It takes a very historical view on what the company just did, which in and of itself does not add a lot of insight with respect to potential future value creation. This inward-looking view focuses on the company and its results without comparisons to the market and how peers and competitors are performing, and it does not help the board understand what is good or bad. A board might celebrate organically growing 8 percent in a given year, for example, and then watch in dismay as the share price drops because the company’s peers all grew at 20 percent.

The biggest opportunity for a CFO’s relationship with the board often hinges on being able to put together an objective view on what a business’s performance has been, how it compares with the market and other businesses in a company’s portfolio, and what the board should expect of future performance. The CFO’s input is especially important for creating clarity on resource allocation to higher-growth businesses within the portfolio, the value potential of increasing the drive toward digital transformation, the value from M&A (and other big-ticket investments), and the impact of broad-based performance transformations.

That input need not reflect the most-sophisticated analyses. In some cases, qualitative observations can suffice. Often, CFOs have the best read on what investors care about and should therefore influence how companies frame, measure, and communicate their value-creation plans. CFOs spend more time than most other executives on investor road shows and facing questions from analysts, and they know which issues can complicate or derail an investor story. They have also seen firsthand which metrics resonate best with investors and how investors will react. For example, after meeting with multiple investors, the CFO at one financial-services company realized that the market was demanding a different way of dealing with and reporting on the company’s major investments in growth. As the CFO discussed this dynamic with the board, they all recognized they had communicated up-front investments in growth in a manner that appeared more like separate, one-off restructuring charges. This board-level engagement by the CFO helped push the company to separate its communication of growth investments from cost-focused restructuring charges. More important, the dialogue helped the board better appreciate that the nature of the company’s growth objectives would require material investment in data architecture, analytics, and automation.

In other cases, strategic assessment of a company’s performance relative to peers can be helpful, whether it involves simple metrics such as share-price performance or more-nuanced metrics such as organic growth or margin expansion. Those types of contextual insights—the result of close collaboration with the rest of the executive team—can tee up the questions that the board needs to ask regarding value creation and strategy. They can help board directors understand the areas they should watch to reveal the company’s potential advantages or weak spots. The impact can be striking.

Consider, for example, how the CFO of a natural-resources company helped the board understand its returns relative to peers. The overall benchmarks were all similar-size companies but lacked specifics on the individual businesses with different exposures to energy and commodity cycles. Without that detail, board directors were concerned that the company’s performance had been relatively poor. Coordinating with the CEO, the CFO reminded the board that an underperforming business in the down side of a cycle will also benefit when the market recovers. Instead of presenting a current snapshot of performance, he led board directors in a discussion about what performance in two years might look like—and provided a set of historical financial analyses to gauge how much of the company’s future returns would likely come from a recovery. The dialogue changed the board’s focus from a question of whether the company should restructure or shut down to one defined by performance: given a certain measure of performance, when should they start investing again to make the most of the market’s recovery?

That example is not the CFO presenting a business case for operational restructuring or recommending specific strategic actions. It is a case of the CFO going beyond pure financial reporting to put the company’s performance in the context of its strategic direction and peers with the right level of detail so that board directors could see for themselves what they needed to do.

Proactively engage with the board
The more CFOs engage with boards, the better they can anticipate boards’ questions—and the better they can keep boards informed ahead of potential surprises. CFOs can also expect to receive valuable support and advice in return. These relationships are most effective when CFOs have active roles in making presentations in every board meeting and are present for most of the discussion. Such involvement allows a CFO to understand board dynamics (and therefore engage more productively with board directors), answer follow-up questions, and track the context from prior meetings. This practice, of course, also requires the CEO to be open to the CFO’s more inclusive participation.

When the board of a multi-industrial business was weighing its acquisition priorities, for example, the discussion eventually came back to a question of how the company created the most value. Would the company do better to trade off assets through M&A deals or grow its business organically? Having joined that board meeting, the CFO was better able to follow up in subsequent board meetings by adding several analyses to his reports to the board. Those included an overview of the company’s organic growth relevant to its markets, some pre- and post-acquisition data on some of its businesses, and highlights of the company’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to organic growth.

That input led the board into a more nuanced discussion. Instead of an “either/or” focus on dealmaking or organic growth, it considered the businesses in which it would or would not want to pursue acquisitions, whether the company had established the right assets and capabilities to execute those acquisitions, and whether it should pursue certain operational priorities before jumping into an active set of acquisition choices.

The importance of proactive behavior in a CFO’s board interactions spans industries. The mechanisms for capital reallocation at banks or other financial institutions do look different from those at an industrial company. But a CFO’s role looks nearly identical when it comes to identifying where to shift resources to create more value. In one instance, the CFO of a financial-services company observed that the company had allocated so much capital to high-priority growth areas that it had underinvested in lower-growth businesses with higher, faster returns. That is the same growth-versus-returns dilemma that industrial companies face and leads to the same predictably lower returns. Proactively raising the issue with the board enabled the company to adjust its capital-allocation rules and make relatively small adjustments that would improve returns without sacrificing new growth opportunities.

Manage board interactions as a team
Taking a more proactive role is not something a CFO can do alone; the CEO formally governs the CFO’s relationship with the board. As head of the management team, CEOs are in the best position to judge how—and how often—their senior managers interact with boards. In our experience, reshaping the interaction typically happens only when a new CEO either redefines the current CFO’s role or brings on a new CFO explicitly tasked with developing a refreshed level of engagement with the board.

From there, managing interactions between the senior management team and the board generally is most effective when it is some form of a team effort. The CEO, often in consultation with the board chair, leads the effort. But the CEO’s success comes not just from knowing the facts and sharing perspectives but also from understanding the questions on board directors’ minds, the context in which they are asking those questions, their own personal histories as board directors and executives, and the interactions between board directors. Who among the directors in the room will ask questions? Who will hold back? Who will be the doubters? And who will be open to providing support and advice to the CFO?

As a trusted source of facts and data as well as a strategic advisor, often alongside a chief of strategy or operations, the CFO is usually a lieutenant to the CEO in making successful board interactions happen. The team’s efforts can allow the CEO to focus more mental energy on managing the discussion, understanding the way the board engages, and ensuring that the board is heading to the right outcome.

A time for boards to act

At a very minimum, CFOs should think of their role as improving the way boards and senior management teams work together by identifying, surfacing, and answering questions about different decisions well in advance of the formal meetings during which votes will occur. That effort helps avoid putting board directors on the spot and asking them to vote with limited information. It also helps ensure that if there are points of contention, there are facts on the table when boards engage in a formal setting.

A CFO should be especially mindful of his or her relationship with the audit committee chair. Audit committee chairs are often the board’s biggest advocates for value creation, cash protection, and the board’s fiduciary responsibility. Here, too, the relationship varies from company to company. But the one constant is that the audit committee chair is typically very engaged and often asks questions regarding value creation, the company’s use of cash, payments back to shareholders, and the investors’ perspectives.

The CFO’s relationship with the audit committee chair can also be an important driver of talent development and succession planning. For instance, the CFO and audit committee chair may schedule private sessions to identify strong candidates for senior finance positions. We have seen several instances in which the audit committee chair has offered coaching and mentoring to members of the finance team—particularly those in line for the CFO role. These high-potentials may be invited to audit committee meetings to make presentations on special projects and initiatives, giving them some exposure to board directors. We have also seen CFOs invite audit committee chairs to meetings of the finance function to help inform important discussions—for instance, changes required as a result of new accounting standards.;

The way that CFOs should communicate with audit committee chairs will depend on the governance within a given board. In some situations, it might be most effective to establish a continuous dialogue between the CFO and the audit committee chair so they can jointly prepare for board meetings: the audit committee chair would have ample opportunity to review the issues at hand and provide relevant information ahead of full board discussions. Indeed, the audit committee chair can serve as a powerful ally for the CFO—holding board directors to task on financial discussions, translating complex concepts for the group, and reinforcing points that the CFO had previously been unable to make on his own.

As demands on board directors grow, CFOs will be increasingly important as resources to support them. Our experience suggests that the CFOs who can define value creation in context and proactively anticipate boards’ needs will excel. Those CFOs can also accelerate their own development by working more closely with board directors and taking in their insights and experiences. Defining their relationships with the board in the context of the rest of senior management is critical.

Source: McKinsey.com, March 2018
By: Frithjof Lund, Justin Sanders, and Ishaan Seth
About the authors: Frithjof Lund is a partner in McKinsey’s Oslo office; Justin Sanders is a partner in the New York office, where Ishaan Seth is a senior partner. The authors wish to thank Kurt Kuehn and Nina Spielmann for their contributions to this article.
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Trender i styrelsearbetet – del 3

Posted in Aktuellt, Board work / Styrelsearbete on March 12th, 2018 by admin

3. STRATEGIARBETET I STYRELSEN

En summering av samtliga styrelseutvärderingar under perioden 2015 – 2018 visar att en så stor del som 69% av styrelserna inte är tillfreds med sitt strategiarbete.

Vi har under de senaste åren sett följande utveckling:
– Ett möte per år öronmärks för strategidiskussioner
– Ett möte blir till ett strategidygn för att få tiden att räcka till
– Ett strategidygn blir två strategidygn (ett på vår och ett på hösten)

Trots den ökade tidsinsatsen ser vi att 7 styrelser av 10 inte tycker att strategiarbetet är tillräckligt bra! Vi ser också att en allt större andel styrelser bedömer att bolagets strategi är ”ganska tydligt”, istället för som tidigare ”mycket tydlig”. Strategiarbetet har helt enkelt blivit svårare!

Dialogen med styrelser har gett oss bilden att den allt snabbare, och mer oförutsägbara, utvecklingen på marknaden gör styrelsens strategiarbete allt mer utmanande. Många styrelser brottas med vad detta kommer att innebära för dess strategiarbete.
En annan iakttagelse är en att många styrelser inte definierat strategibegreppet. Det som en ledamot upplever vara kort på sikt kan av en kollega upplevas som långsiktigt och det som några tycker är operativa frågor ses av andra som strategiska frågeställningar.
Till detta kommer, en i flera fall, olika bild av hur den operativa ledningen och styrelsen ser på styrelsens roll i företagets strategiarbete. Denna olikhet i uppfattning skapar olika förväntningar som i många fall får till resultat att företagets strategiarbete blir lidande. Läs mer om detta under punkt 2 ovan (VDs ”strategistöd”).

Trender i styrelsearbetet – del 2

Posted in Aktuellt, Board work / Styrelsearbete on March 8th, 2018 by admin

2. VDs ”STRATEGISTÖD”

Drygt hälften (53%) av samtliga VDar anser att styrelsens bidrag till den övergripande strategi inte är tillräcklig (”the boards’ contribution to the overall strategy”).

Ett skäl till denna kritiska bild är att det finns olika förväntningar från VD, operativ ledningen och styrelse (och i många fall inom en och samma styrelse).

Relationen styrelse vs. ledning i strategiarbetet varierar mellan bl.a. följande arbetssätt:
1. Styrelsen ansvarar själv för strategiarbetet.
2. Strategiarbetet bedrivs genom av ledningen och styrelsen arbetar tillsammans.
3. Ledningen ansvarar för strategiarbetet som sedan presenteras, och diskuteras, i styrelsen.
Detta är bara några, av många, olika scenarier.

Det väsentliga är att styrelsens roll i strategiarbetet är tydligt definierad. Valet skapar väldigt olika krav på styrelsen (inte minst kompetensmässigt) och bäddar dessutom för stora variationer i förväntningar.

Av detta skäl rekommenderar vi många ordföranden att diskutera, och fastställa, rollerna med styrelse och VD.

Trender i styrelsearbetet – del 1

Posted in Aktuellt, Board work / Styrelsearbete on March 5th, 2018 by admin

1. INTERNATIONELLA LEDAMÖTER

Vi ser ett minskat intresse för internationella styrelseledamöter.

Det är framförallt fyra skäl till detta:
a. Språk
Trots att vi i Sverige är vana med engelska som arbetsspråk är det många som inte är mer än 90%-iga på engelska jämfört med svenska. I allt fler styrelser anser man att det 10%-iga tappet i förståelse, engagemang och kvalitet i diskussionerna inte är optimalt.

b. Arvodering
För många internationella ledamöter innebär ett styrelsemöte i Sverige tre dagars insats (resa in, styrelsemöte och resa ut). Detta skapar en situation där arvoderingen blir extra viktig. Med den, i internationell jämförelse, låga ersättningsnivån i svenskt näringsliv blir det allt svårare att (inte minst i internationell konkurrens) attrahera den bästa kompetensen.

c. Engagemang / deltagande
I en miljö där det blir allt vanliga med fler styrelsemöten än tidigare (både fysiska och på telefon) blir det allt svårare att samla hela styrelsen (inte minst med utmaningen i att motivera tre dagar (inkl. resa) för ett extra styrelsemöte på plats). Och om mötet skall ske på telefon har man utmaningen med olika tidszoner som försvårar deltagande och ibland engagemang (En ordförande: ”Vi har ett tidsfönster på tre timmar om samtliga ledamöter skall kunna delta inom hyfsat normal arbetstid”).

d. Expats
I ett litet land med en förhållandevis stor export finns det inte sällan svenskar med flera års internationell erfarenhet att tillgå. ”Varför gå över ån efter vatten”, som en ordförande uttryckte sig.

Nästa artikel handlar om Styrelsens strategiarbete.

Få kvinnor på maktens bakgård

Posted in Aktuellt, Board work / Styrelsearbete on March 5th, 2018 by admin

Jämställdheten i de svenska bolagsstyrelserna har förbättrats markant de senaste åren, men ingenting har hänt i de dolda maktsfärerna – valberedningarna.

Bara en av tio är kvinna.

Det är valberedningarna som föreslår vilka som ska sitta i börsbolagens styrelserum. Det är en verksamhet som sker i det tysta och de blir nästan aldrig ifrågasatta när förslagen läggs fram på bolagsstämmorna. Och mönstret tenderar att vara tydligt – män väljer oftast andra män, enligt stiftelsen Allbrights rapport över jämställdheten i de nära 300 börsbolagens valberedningar.

– Kvinnor äger inte tillträde till den här maktsfären, säger Tove Dahlgren, tillförordnad vd för Allbright.

Drygt var tionde, 13, av alla valberedarna är en kvinna. Det är samma siffra som för sex år sedan när Allbright gjorde motsvarande undersökning. Samtidigt har visserligen kvinnorepresentationen i styrelserna gått framåt, till runt 32 procent i fjol, en andel som stigit ganska raskt, från 22 procent fem år tidigare.

– Men ingenting händer i valberedningarna, säger Tove Dahlgren.

Och det är illa, menar hon.

– Kvinnor är helt enkelt bättre på att rekrytera kvinnor.

Och det är inte så konstigt, man letar gärna i det egna nätverket, män hittar andra män, resonerar Dahlgren.

Det finns dock inget absolut säkerställt statistiskt samband mellan andel kvinnor i valberedningarna och i styrelserna.

– Men tendenserna är tydliga, säger Dahlgren.

Studien visar att drygt hälften av börsbolagen inte har en enda kvinna i valberedningen. Av dessa är det bara ett av fyra bolag som har en jämställd styrelse (minst 40 procent kvinnor). De få bolag som har en majoritet kvinnor i valberedning har också jämställda styrelser.

En ljusglimt i studien är att de större bolagen är bättre på jämställdhet, de har oftare mer professionella rekryteringsprocesser, enligt Tove Dahlgren. Fast det gäller inte hela vägen. Exempelvis statliga Fjärde AP-fonden, en storspelare bland ägarna i näringslivet, har riktlinjer som anger att det ska finnas kvinnliga kandidater i styrelserna där fonden är ägare.

– Men fonden har inte en enda kvinna som representerar dem i valberedningarna, säger Dahlgren.

Arne Lööw, chef för fondens ägarstyrningsenhet, vill egentligen inte kommentera innan han själv sett resultaten av Allbrights rapport.

– Men det stämmer, vi har ingen kvinna som sitter i valberedningarna för Fjärde AP-fonden för tillfället. Men det viktigaste är ju det arbete vi utför, och tittar vi där så har vi generellt legat över snittet vad gäller att föreslå andelen kvinnor till styrelser, säger Lööw.

Länken till den kompletta rapporten här.

Källa DN.se, 5 mars 2018
Länk

Trender i styrelsearbetet (inledning)

Posted in Aktuellt, Board work / Styrelsearbete on March 1st, 2018 by admin

Lagercrantz Associates arbetar sedan sex år tillbaka med faktabaserade styrelse- och VD-utvärderingar. Vi har idag en ledande position på marknaden med i första hand noterade bolag, men har också flera PE-bolag och statliga bolag, som uppdragsgivare.
Mycket är överensstämmande vad gäller framgångsfaktorer för styrelsearbetet. Men det finns också viktiga skillnader. Därför utgår vårt arbete från olika, speciellt anpassade, grundformat för t.ex. noterade bolag, onoterade bolag, banker, försäkringsbolag, statliga bolag och PE-kontrollerade bolag. Naturligtvis anpassas sedan styrelseutvärderingen ytterligare utifrån varje uppdragsgivares specifika förutsättningar.

För att skapa en jämförelsebild erbjuder vi två olika index:
1. Board Index
– en bild av hur företagets styrelse fungerar i förhållande till andra likvärdiga styrelser inom de
områden som är mest värdeskapande i styrelsearbetet.
2. Chair Index
– en motsvarande bild av hur styrelsens ordförande förhåller sig i jämförelse med andra, i
likvärdiga bolag, ordförandekollegor.

Som ett led i att hela tiden utveckla vårt erbjudande, och inte minst tillföra värde till våra uppdragsgivare, sammanställer vi på årsbasis en bild av hur nordiskt styrelsearbete utvecklas.

Här följer en kortfattade sammanställning av de områden vi valt att lyfta fram vad gäller erfarenheter av att faktabaserat utvärdera nordiska styrelsers arbete under perioden 2015 fram till dags dato:
1. Internationella ledamöter
2. VDs ”strategistöd”
3. Strategiarbetet i styrelsen
4. Kundfokus
5. Utvärdering av VD
6. Hållbarhetsarbetet
7. Successionsplanering
8. Generalister vs. specialister

Var och en av dessa områden beskrivs kortfattat i separata artiklar nedan. Tveka inte att ta en direktkontakt med oss för en fördjupad diskussion kring våra slutsatser eller en styrelsepresentation av våra samlade tankar kring dagens, och framtidens, styrelsearbete.

Läs gärna mer här.

Johan Mathson
Partner
Lagercrantz Associates

Digital trends and observations from Davos 2018

Posted in Aktuellt, Allmänt, Board work / Styrelsearbete, Digitalisering / Internet on February 6th, 2018 by admin

The massive snowfall in Davos this year certainly made getting around a little more challenging compared to years past, but that did nothing to dampen the conversation. We were fortunate to be at this year’s World Economic Forum, and after dozens of conversations with executives from around the world, we wanted to share a number of things that struck us about what we heard.

AI is growing up: Augmenting humans and social good
AI is top of mind for many executives, but the application of AI—and, more broadly, advanced analytics—is generating more thoughtful and nuanced conversations. While there are serious concerns about the social implications of AI, the reality is that it’s hard to see how machines can really be effective on their own, just as it’s hard to see how humans can work as well without machines. The most thoughtful organizations are looking to understand how AI can most effectively augment humans.

That idea of augmentation is playing through in other areas too. If you have good AI, you need processes to ensure the insights it generates are used. This is harder than it sounds. You can’t simply have a machine spitting out advice because people just won’t read it. By the same token, it doesn’t help to automate poor decisions. It’s all about finding ways to get the various technologies focused on what they do best, and then working together with humans to drive better results.

It was inspiring also to see how much focus there is on harnessing AI for social good. There is a significant opportunity for AI to help with big problems, from predicting the absence of rain in a region to managing mass immigration flows. While businesses are moving ahead quickly with AI, NGOs and regulators are far behind when it comes to the talent and capabilities needed. That may be changing, however. Increasingly there are courses on AI and social good being offered at cutting-edge technical universities, where there is strong interest from top students.

Gaining traction: Distributed ledgers (e.g., blockchain) and ecosystems
There is also a massive debate emerging around distributed ledger technology (more commonly referred to as blockchain, though that’s actually just one example of distributed ledger technology) specifically around its applications to businesses. There’s still lots of hype—often shaped by lack of true understanding of what the technology is—but also some real substance beyond its use for the cryptocurrencies that have been in the headlines. The promise of distributed ledgers lies in their ability to reliably, securely, and transparently access and share targeted sets of data.

Let’s take the example of sepsis, a dangerous but very preventable disease. Technology can help prevent sepsis by linking signals the body generates to historical health data. The analysis of this combined data could then signal danger signs before other symptoms arise and drive timely medical interventions. Distributed ledger technology could enable that kind of merging of data and analytics in a way that’s very hard to do today. Another example is banks that want to lend in emerging markets, where there is often no credit risk data, but widespread mobile phone usage. Through distributed ledgers, banks could access telco data to see potential customers’ phone bill payment records as a quick and reliable measure for loan suitability.

Distributed ledgers are also important for unlocking the cumulative power of ecoystems, which are increasingly a focus for businesses. It’s becoming clear to even the largest and most successful companies that they can’t do everything on their own. They are now concentrating much more on engaging in ecosystems of businesses, platforms, vendors, agencies, and the like through formal and informal partnerships, synergistic agreements, alliances, and other arrangements. However, ecosystems don’t happen at scale yet because of the difficulties getting different data systems to speak to each other with current technology. Distributed ledgers are the key ingredient to enable that level of communication and analysis.

Businesses are starting to put pilot teams together to understand how distributed ledgers work, and what the implications are for their businesses. We’re on the verge of some very interesting business models emerging from this.

Who’s got talent?
Almost everyone we spoke with mentioned how important the talent question has become. Of course, talent is always an issue but it’s now a CEO topic. There were three flavors of the talent challenge which we noticed:

“I need to get my hands on some quality data scientists.” There is a limited number of these kinds of people, so the competition is intense (and expensive).
“I need to train my senior people and managers to understand how to work with and lead these data scientists.”
“I need to do something about the percolating social implications.” Many leaders are concerned about the implications that displacement of jobs by automation will have on society. Added to that is the fact that much of the employment growth in Western countries is in the gig economy. Leaders are looking at re-skilling as a cheaper and more effective approach than paying to hire and train new people. But that then requires the development of the capacity to develop, administer, and adapt a constant training function, because the reality is that many employees will need to be constantly learning and adapting. That includes thinking through the skills needed in three to five years, and beginning to develop that now before it’s too late.

Bold moves and what they mean for the organization
Many business leaders are thinking much more boldly about the changes they should make. One executive at an oil services business realized that they needed excellent advanced analytics capability to help manage their pipelines (such as for maintenance). His approach was to hire the best entrepreneur he could find and set up a self-standing business to specifically build out this capability. Not only did this executive believe it was the best way to build up an important capability quickly, it was also a talent play.

These bold moves are inextricably tied to organizational issues. Building out new businesses or figuring out how (or whether) to move to full-scale agile ways of working through the business raises all sorts of thorny questions: what does the governance look like? How do you make investment decisions? These are exactly the kinds of questions that reflect a deeper commitment to transformations at the core of the business.

The tough talk: Cybersecurity and looming “Techlash”

Overall, the feeling was very positive that the business outlook was good and the economy is flying. But below the surface there were very real and potentially damaging concerns. Cybersecurity is foremost among them, with companies locked in an arms race to stay ahead of (or even catch up to) highly sophisticated cyber criminals. It’s a big issue with CEOs and boards, and some of the business world’s best minds are trying to understand how to get the upper hand.

One other undercurrent of concern was around the idea of a “techlash,” or backlash against tech companies driven by fears that they are becoming too large and monopolistic. At one level is the basic concern that tech companies are just outcompeting incumbents, but beyond that there’s a sense that large tech companies are dictating terms to the marketplace, not taking privacy concerns seriously enough, and unfocused on the social implications of technology. Yes, to some degree this is driven by jealousy at the success these new tech businesses have enjoyed and the natural discomfort that comes with disruption. But there is also real concern as well with what’s happening to our society with these changes, and a sense that not all of it is good.

Despite the complexity of some of these issues and concerns, we were encouraged to see the discussion about them. Dialog is an indication of innovation to come.

Source: McKinsey.com, 2 February 2018
Authors: Nicolaus Henke and Paul Willmott
About the authors: Nicolaus Henke and Paul Willmott are senior partners in McKinsey’s London office.
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Ompröva om VD skall ingå i styrelsen

Posted in Aktuellt, Board work / Styrelsearbete on February 2nd, 2018 by admin

Di skrev 31/1 att Skanska SKA B nya vd Anders Danielsson inte får någon styrelseplats. Ett skäl är att Danielsson ska vara “mer operativ” än sin företrädare. Det är bra. Om företrädaren varit mer operativ kanske problemen för efterträdaren inte hade varit så omfattande.

Styrelsen kan uppleva det som bekvämt med en drivande vd som ledamot. Men risken är att vd får för stort inflytande i frågor som i grunden är styrelsefrågor. Styrelsens diskussioner påverkas av att vd sitter i rummet.

Det finns inga fördelar med att blanda ihop parternas olika roller. Strategin är i första hand styrelsens ansvar, det operativa är ledningens. I slutändan är det styrelsen som tillsätter och avsätter vd och är dess överordnade. De olika perspektiven är en del av styrkan i styrmodellen.

Det handlar inte om att isolera vd, som ju ändå är involverad i och med att hen ofta är med på mötena som föredragande. Vd bör ha en god och löpande kontakt med ordföranden som är ett viktigt bollplank.

Hexagon är ett bra exempel på hur styrelsen gjort sig sårbar och beroende av vd Ola Rollén, som även är styrelseledamot. Samtidigt kan man i fall som Rolléns, när vd även är en betydande aktieägare, tvingas göra avsteg från principen eftersom en storägare bör kunna komma i fråga för styrelseplats.

De fyra storbankerna gör olika val, i SEB och Handelsbanken har vd styrelseplats, men inte i Nordea och Swedbank. Det är värt att notera att HQ hade en tradition av att ha vd i styrelsen, men efter kraschen har både Sven Hagströmer i investmentbolaget Creades, och Mats Qviberg i Öresund, undvikit detta.

USA har rakt motsatt modell, vd är ofta även ordförande. Det skapar en stark maktkoncentration och gör det mycket svårare att ifrågasätta eller sparka vd, vilket är en riskfaktor. Häromdagen förlängde JP Morgan Chases vd och ordförande Jamie Dimon sitt förordnande i ytterligare fem år, vilket totalt innebär 17 år på posten. Det sägs att man inte ska ändra ett vinnande lag. Men laget bör inte heller göra sig beroende av en enskild spelare.

Svenska företag gör rätt i att skilja på rollerna och bör i större utsträckning ompröva vd:s styrelseplats.

Källa: DI.se, 2 februari 2018
Länk
Av: Lotta Engzell-Larsson

A Sense of Purpose

Posted in Aktuellt, Board work / Styrelsearbete on January 18th, 2018 by admin

LARRY FINK’s ANNUAL LETTER TO CEOs

Dear CEO,

As BlackRock approaches its 30th anniversary this year, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the most pressing issues facing investors today and how BlackRock must adapt to serve our clients more effectively. It is a great privilege and responsibility to manage the assets clients have entrusted to us, most of which are invested for long-term goals such as retirement. As a fiduciary, BlackRock engages with companies to drive the sustainable, long-term growth that our clients need to meet their goals.

In 2017, equities enjoyed an extraordinary run – with record highs across a wide range of sectors – and yet popular frustration and apprehension about the future simultaneously reached new heights. We are seeing a paradox of high returns and high anxiety. Since the financial crisis, those with capital have reaped enormous benefits. At the same time, many individuals across the world are facing a combination of low rates, low wage growth, and inadequate retirement systems. Many don’t have the financial capacity, the resources, or the tools to save effectively; those who are invested are too often over-allocated to cash. For millions, the prospect of a secure retirement is slipping further and further away – especially among workers with less education, whose job security is increasingly tenuous. I believe these trends are a major source of the anxiety and polarization that we see across the world today.

We also see many governments failing to prepare for the future, on issues ranging from retirement and infrastructure to automation and worker retraining. As a result, society increasingly is turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges. Indeed, the public expectations of your company have never been greater. Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.

Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential. It will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders. It will succumb to short-term pressures to distribute earnings, and, in the process, sacrifice investments in employee development, innovation, and capital expenditures that are necessary for long-term growth. It will remain exposed to activist campaigns that articulate a clearer goal, even if that goal serves only the shortest and narrowest of objectives. And ultimately, that company will provide subpar returns to the investors who depend on it to finance their retirement, home purchases, or higher education.

A new model for corporate governance
Globally, investors’ increasing use of index funds is driving a transformation in BlackRock’s fiduciary responsibility and the wider landscape of corporate governance. In the $1.7 trillion in active funds we manage, BlackRock can choose to sell the securities of a company if we are doubtful about its strategic direction or long-term growth. In managing our index funds, however, BlackRock cannot express its disapproval by selling the company’s securities as long as that company remains in the relevant index. As a result, our responsibility to engage and vote is more important than ever. In this sense, index investors are the ultimate long-term investors – providing patient capital for companies to grow and prosper.

Just as the responsibilities your company faces have grown, so too have the responsibilities of asset managers. We must be active, engaged agents on behalf of the clients invested with BlackRock, who are the true owners of your company. This responsibility goes beyond casting proxy votes at annual meetings – it means investing the time and resources necessary to foster long-term value.

The time has come for a new model of shareholder engagement – one that strengthens and deepens communication between shareholders and the companies that they own. I have written before that companies have been too focused on quarterly results; similarly, shareholder engagement has been too focused on annual meetings and proxy votes. If engagement is to be meaningful and productive – if we collectively are going to focus on benefitting shareholders instead of wasting time and money in proxy fights – then engagement needs to be a year-round conversation about improving long-term value.

BlackRock recognizes and embraces our responsibility to help drive this change. Over the past several years, we have undertaken a concentrated effort to evolve our approach, led by Michelle Edkins, our global head of investment stewardship. Since 2011, Michelle has helped transform our practice from one predominantly focused on proxy voting towards an approach based on engagement with companies.

The growth of indexing demands that we now take this function to a new level. Reflecting the growing importance of investment stewardship, I have asked Barbara Novick, Vice Chairman and a co-founder of BlackRock, to oversee the firm’s efforts. Michelle will continue to lead the global investment stewardship group day-to-day. We also intend to double the size of the investment stewardship team over the next three years. The growth of our team will help foster even more effective engagement with your company by building a framework for deeper, more frequent, and more productive conversations.

Your strategy, your board, and your purpose
In order to make engagement with shareholders as productive as possible, companies must be able to describe their strategy for long-term growth. I want to reiterate our request, outlined in past letters, that you publicly articulate your company’s strategic framework for long-term value creation and explicitly affirm that it has been reviewed by your board of directors. This demonstrates to investors that your board is engaged with the strategic direction of the company. When we meet with directors, we also expect them to describe the Board process for overseeing your strategy.

The statement of long-term strategy is essential to understanding a company’s actions and policies, its preparation for potential challenges, and the context of its shorter-term decisions. Your company’s strategy must articulate a path to achieve financial performance. To sustain that performance, however, you must also understand the societal impact of your business as well as the ways that broad, structural trends – from slow wage growth to rising automation to climate change – affect your potential for growth.

These strategy statements are not meant to be set in stone – rather, they should continue to evolve along with the business environment and explicitly recognize possible areas of investor dissatisfaction. Of course, we recognize that the market is far more comfortable with 10Qs and colored proxy cards than complex strategy discussions. But a central reason for the rise of activism – and wasteful proxy fights – is that companies have not been explicit enough about their long-term strategies.

In the United States, for example, companies should explain to investors how the significant changes to tax law fit into their long-term strategy. What will you do with increased after-tax cash flow, and how will you use it to create long-term value? This is a particularly critical moment for companies to explain their long-term plans to investors. Tax changes will embolden those activists with a short-term focus to demand answers on the use of increased cash flows, and companies who have not already developed and explained their plans will find it difficult to defend against these campaigns. The U.S. tax bill is only one such example – regardless of a company’s jurisdiction, it is your responsibility to explain to shareholders how major legislative or regulatory changes will impact not just next year’s balance sheet, but also your long-term strategy for growth.

Where activists do offer valuable ideas – which is more often than some detractors suggest – we encourage companies to begin discussions early, to engage with shareholders like BlackRock, and to bring other critical stakeholders to the table. But when a company waits until a proxy proposal to engage or fails to express its long-term strategy in a compelling manner, we believe the opportunity for meaningful dialogue has often already been missed.

The board’s engagement in developing your long-term strategy is essential because an engaged board and a long-term approach are valuable indicators of a company’s ability to create long-term value for shareholders. Just as we seek deeper conversation between companies and shareholders, we also ask that directors assume deeper involvement with a firm’s long-term strategy. Boards meet only periodically, but their responsibility is continuous. Directors whose knowledge is derived only from sporadic meetings are not fulfilling their duty to shareholders. Likewise, executives who view boards as a nuisance only undermine themselves and the company’s prospects for long-term growth.

We also will continue to emphasize the importance of a diverse board. Boards with a diverse mix of genders, ethnicities, career experiences, and ways of thinking have, as a result, a more diverse and aware mindset. They are less likely to succumb to groupthink or miss new threats to a company’s business model. And they are better able to identify opportunities that promote long-term growth.

Furthermore, the board is essential to helping a company articulate and pursue its purpose, as well as respond to the questions that are increasingly important to its investors, its consumers, and the communities in which it operates. In the current environment, these stakeholders are demanding that companies exercise leadership on a broader range of issues. And they are right to: a company’s ability to manage environmental, social, and governance matters demonstrates the leadership and good governance that is so essential to sustainable growth, which is why we are increasingly integrating these issues into our investment process.

Companies must ask themselves: What role do we play in the community? How are we managing our impact on the environment? Are we working to create a diverse workforce? Are we adapting to technological change? Are we providing the retraining and opportunities that our employees and our business will need to adjust to an increasingly automated world? Are we using behavioral finance and other tools to prepare workers for retirement, so that they invest in a way that that will help them achieve their goals?

As we enter 2018, BlackRock is eager to participate in discussions about long-term value creation and work to build a better framework for serving all your stakeholders. Today, our clients – who are your company’s owners – are asking you to demonstrate the leadership and clarity that will drive not only their own investment returns, but also the prosperity and security of their fellow citizens. We look forward to engaging with you on these issues.

Source: Blackrock.com, January 2018
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Tidsinsats och arvodering i svenskt styrelsearbete samt kommande ersättningsregler

Posted in Aktuellt, Board work / Styrelsearbete on January 10th, 2018 by admin

Det torde nu vara klargjort vad gäller kommande beskattning av styrelsearvoden (se mer nedan).
Inför kommande diskussioner avseende eventuella justeringar av arvoden har vi, inom ramen för vårt arbete med faktabaserade styrelseutvärderingar, tittat närmare på några frågor kopplade till insats och arvodering.

Resultatet baserar sig på drygt 300 ledamöter under de senaste 18 månaderna.
Drygt 60% av deltagande styrelser är noterade bolag och en tredjedel PE-ägda bolag.

Hur mycket tid lägger Du på Ditt styrelseuppdrag?
– 55% lägger upp till 250 timmar på sitt styrelseengagemang
– 25% mellan 250 och 350 timmar.

Hur mycket tid lägger Du på Ditt uppdrag som styrelseordförande?
– 32% mer än 450 timmar
– 60% mer än 350 timmar

I vårt arbete med styrelser händer det att ledamöter berättar att ”det här uppdraget har tagit väldigt mycket mer tid än vad jag förväntade mig”. Av detta skäl har vi tittat närmare på frågan:
Har detta uppdrag motsvarat Dina förväntningar vad gäller Din tidsinsats?
– Hela 84% anser att uppdraget har motsvarat ledamotens förväntningar. Detta tyder på en
”realistisk införsäljning” när den nya ledamoten approcheras.

Hur ser man då avslutningsvis på ersättningen för sitt styrelseengagemang?
Är arvodet rimligt i förhållande till tidsinsatsen?
– 46% håller med ”fullt ut” att styrelsearvodet är rimligt (52% i gruppen ordföranden).
– 24% håller inte med om att ersättningen är rimlig

Nedan finner Du en kortare sammanställning av de nya skattereglerna avseende styrelsearvoden:
Skatteverket har förtydligat sitt ställningstagande avseende övergångsperioden. Detta innebär en förlängning av den övergångsperiod där arvoden kan utbetalas till fakturerande företag utan beskattningskonsekvenser för parterna enligt nedan:
När det gäller redan ingångna avtal kan dessa fortlöpa viss tid utan beskattningskonsekvenser för inkomstbeskattningen. Detta bör dock som begränsning enbart gälla de avtal som ingåtts före HFDs dom och gäller under perioden fram till nästkommande årsstämma, dock senast under 2018.
Domen innebär att styrelsearvoden ska beskattas som inkomst av tjänst och kan inte längre faktureras till styrelsemedlems bolag. Några få undantag kan göras för avgränsade uppdrag för specifika insatser i andra företag.
Enligt skatteverket ska motsvarande bedömning och hantering även gälla ifråga om socialavgifter.

Johan Mathson
Partner
Lagercrantz Associates