City & Corporate: Cubitt to boost non-executives

Non-executive directors Association aims to improve quality and diversity of corporate governance.

The Non-Executive Directors Association (NEDA) is looking to capitalise on the need for high quality corporate governance in business by expanding the diversity and influence of non-executive directors (NEDs).

The general quality of corporate governance has come under scrutiny after the failures of the pre-credit crunch era. In response, the UK body representing non-executive directors has engaged Cubitt Consulting to highlight the importance of non-executives and crucially create greater diversity in the talent pool from which they are drawn.

The agency will seek to increase the number of women and ethnic minorities in such roles and the range of sectors from which non-executives are drawn.

Simon Brocklebank-Fowler, managing partner of Cubitt, said: 'Non-executive directors will typically have chartered accountancy experience, which is hugely valuable but not the sum total of human talent available.'

He noted that one as yet relatively untapped sector for NEDs was the comms industry itself, noting in particular the number of suitable senior female owner/managers in the industry.

The NEDA website will invite open applications to be considered for suitability and aims to bring transparency to a previously opaque selection process.

The major listed comms groups use high-profile non-executives - such as Virgin Galactic's president Will Whitehorn as non-executive chairman at Next Fifteen and film director Lord Puttnam at Huntsworth - but use of independent expertise across the industry remains relatively sporadic.

Research released last week from Kingston Smith W1 found 60 per cent of creative companies have yet to appoint an NED.

Mandy Merron, partner at the firm, said: 'Non-executive directors, particularly those in the FTSE 100, have taken something of a hammering recently. Stakeholders feel let down and have left to contemplate the true value of this role.'

But its research suggests that companies using NEDs performed better during the last recession and the benefits of having them on a board could be significant: 'There is no manual on how to survive these difficult times, but drawing on the experiences of those firms that succeeded in the last recession could provide strategies for surviving the current downturn.'

HOW I SEE IT

Ronel Lehmann, Chief executive, Lehmann Communications

We have had a number of non-executive directors over the years and each of them provided the most incredible experience, fiduciary duties and contacts, which helped the business transfer from a sole trader founded in 1988 to a private limited company in June 1999.

The most important thing to ascertain with a prospective candidate is what are they actually going to bring to the table and how best to leverage their support for the benefit of the business and its clients. The cost is not insubstantial but the return on investment makes any contribution worthwhile.

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