Top executives taking up practice directorships

02 Nov 2015

Up-and-coming directors are learning the secrets of the trade through placements at some of New Zealand’s top companies.

The Future Directors scheme was set up in March 2013 by Sir Stephen Tindall, Michael Stiassny of the Institute of Directors and Des Hunt of the NZ Shareholders Association, to help widen New Zealand’s director pool.

Since then, 10 companies have signed on to host budding directors – with another five in the process of joining – and 14 executives have been through the programme.

Institute of Directors chief executive Simon Arcus says it is creating a “pipeline of good governance” to support New Zealand’s economic growth, while introducing companies to fresh talent.

“For many years boardrooms were closed to the idea of having an observer or apprentice director on board and we’re starting to see that attitude change,” he says.

“In the US they constantly link diversity and disruption, because there’s a critical need to speed up to deal with modern challenges.

“Boards here need different skills which includes understanding cyber and digital, online marketing, and dealing with multiple digital platforms – a company can’t live by the old press release any more.”

The scheme is presenting an opportunity for more women to gain board experience, with eight out of the 14 placements female.

NZX's latest gender diversity statistics show the number of women on public company boards has lifted since 2013, the first year the stock exchange started tracking the gender divide. The percentage ratio of men and women is sitting at 83-17 for the September year to date, compared to 88-12 in 2013.

Nicola Greer already sits on the Heartland Bank board but has become Auckland International Airport’s newest Future Director. She wants to broaden her governance experience beyond banking and financial markets, and ultimately become a professional director.

While Ms Greer – who has held senior positions at ANZ Bank, Citibank and Goldman Sachs – is learning about how the airport’s highly experienced board conducts the business, she is also expected to contribute.

“Future directors are treated as normal board members in all aspects apart from voting. We’re expected to engage in dialogue with independent thoughts.

“Boards these days consist of people with a wide range of skills and expertise and directors are expected to contribute in their areas of strength rather than being masters of everything.”

The demand for training at the top is certainly there – 370 applicants have registered with Future Directors since it was officially launched in 2013.

Those chosen are experienced executives in their own right, including Genesis Energy strategy general manager Sheridan Broadbent (with Auckland Airport), Kiwibank chief operating officer Nick Astwick (with Vector) and NZVIF chief executive Franc1eska Banga (with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare).

Other companies participating in the scheme are The Warehouse, Northpower, Dunedin Airport, Canterbury Scientific, AWF Group, Mighty River Power, Kordia, Genesis Energy, and IANZ.

This article is published with permission from NBR