IDN New Year Message 2019 – 2020

Presidents Message

This year has been an exciting and busy year. We have had several new Board members in Pamela, Jeff, Karen and now Helen, who has been co-opted to cover an unexpected vacancy.  You will see below the work we have been doing on your behalf in relation to Webinars, events, Advocate and connect, Communicating new Board positions that our members secure, Mentoring etc, which are all member benefits. Our Ambassadors of whom we have circa 20 now, with more to join, also support our members immensely in these endeavours. 

Additionally, we have formed a closer bond with INBOARD, including having Peter Nietker on our board, and are working to set up additional programmes in the UK and France. These programmes supplement rather than detract from the IDP core offerings.

In Governance terms we look close to being able to set up a legal entity, open a Bank Account and thus consult on membership subscriptions. Thanks to Dominic and Karen for all their hard work. Some of our board members support not only with their work, but also pay for both services and tools needed for our operations. To de-risk our continued operations, we will move those costs into operational costs and establish partnerships and some base subscription fees. As requested at the AGM we are firming up on the IDN Value proposition, to enable members to have real clarity about what they can expect from the membership and why subscriptions will enhance our ability to add even greater value.

We are still, led by Thomas, with ICGC working on an Award or series of Awards which may we’ll attract sponsorship too, as well as further raising our profile as a body of certified Directors.

The nightmare of the year was GDPR, which gave us a real challenge in accessing membership data. Hagen and his team have done a sterling job on this!!!

To expand the reputation of our members and increase impact we have, led by Liselotte, promoted new board positions, inspired through webinars and social media and initiated a campaign to reduce usage of One Time Plastics through our board roles.  

Mary has provided valuable contributions in her board role, which she has now relinquished and is now the IDN Ambassador for the Americas. 

I cannot close this message without thanking Christopher, Alison and Ludo for all their hard work over the years. Without them we would not be where we are today! 

My existing Board members and ICGC have also worked tirelessly to achieve our aims and the new members have rapidly got to grips with our challenges and taken on key roles in Committee as well as on the Board.

We continue to support INSEAD and ICGC in their endeavour to be a Force for Good, and will align our overarching message for next year to be “Responsible Governance for a Disrupted World“.  

I wish everybody a Happy Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year as appropriate.


Helen Pitcher, OBE, IDN President

INSEAD Directors Network 2019

INSEAD Directors Network, IDN, our global and expanding network of more than 1300 international board members and corporate governance experts had a remarkable year.

As a valued IDN Member we would appreciate your feedback on the activities and benefits provided via the network in this short survey, it is confidential and will only take 5-7 min to fill in. Find the survey here. It will be your Christmas gift to us!

The remarkable year is substantiated with the impressive list of IDN members who were appointed to 87 new board positionsin more than 15 countries during first three quarters of the year.

Our 18 local IDN ambassadors across the world has organised numerous local insight and networking events, some together with the local INBOARD and with our INSEAD NAA organisations.

In addition, we have organized global webinars since AGM 2018on current board topics, adding to the previous 21, where some of our own IDN members, ambassadors and board, INSEAD faculty and partners have shared their experiences.

The global webinars, soon to be available via our exclusive membership resources, covered topics as

  • Technology & Blockchain impact for Board Directors
  • Multi-cultural impact on Boards and Boardrooms
  • Writing a Board CV – Doing Yourself justice when applying for board roles
  • Sustainability in the Boardroom and investor ESG focus
  • Boards role in guiding Corporate Culture for Strategy Alignment
  • Innovation in the Boardroom
  • Changing responsibilities for boards and audit committees

We met at the INSEAD Directors Forums in Singapore in February on the topic of Governance in the era of Regulatory and Geopolitical shiftsand in Fontainebleau in October on the topic of Boards Renewal for Transformational Governance, where we also held our AGM.

We also met and discussed at the ICGC arranged Sustainability Summit in March and The INSEAD Alumni Association arrange European Forum in June.

We have initiated a mentoring scheme which during 2019 included 9 mentors and 11 mentees, exchanging valuable insights.

We have shared governance insights and engaged with and between members via our website, our external IDN LinkedIn page, and our IDN Twitter account.

Members have engaged in our Advocate & Connect Board Search service.

We have initiated a Board Member Pledge to Reduce One Time Plastics, which we hope will show how responsible and impactful our IDN members are. Do join the Pledge to reduce One Time Plastic Use!

IDN Members, Ambassadors and the Board contributed to 13 insightful blogposts on the topics of

Contribution to thought leadership was increased, as INSEAD Professor Ludo van der Heyden and our IDN board member Chair and NED Liselotte Engstam, together with Professors Magnusson and Karlsson, researched and shared the result in the article “Innovation and Corporate Renewal also Disrupt Boards

IDN 2020 Plans

2020 we believe will be an important year when INSEAD continue to emphasize that we need to use Business as a Force for Good , and IDN will support with our 2020 theme of Responsible Governance in a disrupted world.

Corporate Governance is continuing to align to the major trends impacting our businesses and societies as sustainability, geopolitics and digitalisation. Our President Helen Pitcher, OBE shares her insights on trends in corporate governance.

We will continue our close collaboration with INSEAD Corporate Governance Center, ICGC and continue our collaboration with the rest of the INSEAD Alumni community.

INSEAD Director Forums arranged by ICGC, brings a great opportunity to meet and network with old and new IDN Colleagues, the next one planned March 30-31 in Singapore and the 10 year anniversary IDF in October 16-17 October in Fontainebleau. We will start facilitating IDP reunion meetings for selected classes aligned with the IDFs.

The appreciated local IDN events arranged by our IDN Ambassadors, will continue and we will also network at local INSEAD Alumni and INBOARD events.

With a strong base in Europe and Asia and a growing network in Americas, we are excited about INSEADs expansion with a new INSEAD hub in San Fransisco and hope to meet many of our IDN Network Members there as well.

On a quarterly basis we will share our IDN members new board appointments, and we will shortly be rolling out the IDN 2020 mentoring program with a focus on IDN members who have recently been appointed to their first board.

We will interview more of our IDN members and increase sharing of their insights and insights on current board topics in IDN blog posts. We also invite our members to volunteer on topics and blogposts.

Our popular global Webinars on current board topics exclusive for our IDN members will continue and we have a webinar already confirmed for

February 17 12-13 CET; “The Value Adding Board – the profound impact of ownership structure on Board’s work, mindset and profile with experienced leader, board professional and author Torben Ballegaard Sorensen and IDN members.

At next years webinars we will cover topics as AI impact on boards, Non Profit Boards, Family Business Boards, Challenges for Financial Services Boards, Crisis and Communication for Boards, Leading Boards and Stakeholder Perspectives. Please let us know if you have tips or like to contribute.

We will continue to share insights and engage with Partners, IDN members and Governance experts via our website, our external IDN LinkedIn page,

and we will continue to communicate daily on corporate governance via our IDN Twitter account, helping modern board directors keep updated and be better positioned for board work in the digital era.

Listen to the partnership invitefrom our IDN President Helen Pitcher OBE, clarifying our ambition to increase collaboration with partners in several areas.

Via our exclusive member resources at our IDN website, our IDN members have access to insightsincluding videos, podcasts, articles and research, as well as webinar archives, discussion forums and more.

If this newsletter reaches you and you are not yet part of our engaging global international board director network, you can explore how to become a member.

IDN Year End message

We want to conclude our year with sharing some inspiration on topics we believe will be in focus for boards the coming year from the ICGC Series called Governance talks as

Introduction of ICGC and Professor Jose Luis Alvarez and the Importance of Social Capital for Directors 

Inclusive diversity from the boardroom to the organisation with INSEAD faculty Kay Formanek interviewed by Sonia Tatar, ICGC 

Crisis Rediness vs Crisis Management with Marjolijn van Oordt (IDP-C) interviewed by Sonja Tatar, ICGC 

Leading a Board with INSEAD Professor Stanislav Schekshnia

Boardroom Digital Transformation Prof Andrew Shipolov 


We like to thank all our engaged IDN members, INSEAD Alumni and Partners and wish you all a successful end of 2019 and a prosperous 2020!

The IDN Board

Helen Pitcher OBE, Dominic Nixon, Karen Loon, Hagen Schweinitz, Pamela Ravasio, Jeff Scott, Helen Wiseman, Thomas Seale and Liselotte Engstam


IDN Membership Benefits

* Opportunity for networking and personal branding being part of a unique network of practicing international board members and governance experts with exposure to partners
* A network of Ambassadors who facilitate and manage local and international events with networking opportunities, as well as promoting links with National Alumni Associations (NAAs) and INBOARD
* Regular international webinars on current board topics and career-related advice
Promotion of members and network in quarterly board position announcements and upcoming corporate governance awards
* A content rich website and blog with open and member exclusive sections, including access to previous webinars, and active social media sharing of governance related insights on LinkedIn and Twitter
* Advocate & Connect programme linking potential board members with positions available through the Network


33 Additional Board Appointments at INSEAD Directors’ Network

Members Board & Corporate Governance Positions Announcement 3Q – 2019 

INSEADs International Director Network, IDN, is proud to share the recent appointments of board and corporate governance positions of our members, recognizing our members and the strength of our IDN network.

IDN members has been appointed to 33 new board positions in 18 countries, summing up to 213 position announcements since 2017.

IDN is a network of International Board Directors, where full membership is open to all INSEAD Alumni with appropriate directorship experience and is automatic for Certified Directors(IDP-C) from INSEADs International Directors Program (IDP).

The aim of the IDN network is to facilitate contacts, share insights and experiences on international board topics and promote excellence in corporate governance. 

To date, IDP has been completed by 1133 participants, with 837 certified IDP-C/ IDBP-C directors, and our international board network includes more than 1300 members.

IDN works closely with INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre,which undertakes cutting-edge research and teachingtailored to the needs of boards and international directors. It fosters a global dialogue on the challenges of corporate governance and leadership in an international context.

INSEAD Directors’ Network – Members New Board & Corporate Governance Positions

 IDN members – Certified IDP-C Board Directors

Natalisio Almeida – May 2019 – Non-Executive Board Director at Banco Original, (Private, HQ Brazil)

Reon Bernard – August 2019 – Chairman at Sekta Group (Private, HQ South Africa)

Katia Ciesielska – June 2019 – Board Member at Luxembourg Institute of Directors (Private, HQ Luxembourg)

Margaret Clandillon – January 2019 – Non-Executive Board Director at Investec Aircraft Syndicate SPC (Private, HQ Cayman) 

Patrick Devenish – May 2019 – Chairman Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (Government, HQ Zimbabwe)

Hamza Didaraly – November 2018 – Chairman at A. I Ambassador (Private, HQ France)

Daniel Flammer – July 2019 – Non-Executive Chairman at Tiwel Holding AG (Private, HQ Switzerland) main shareholder of Sulzer AG (Listed, HQ Switzerland)   

Fennemiek Gommer – October 2019 – Non-Executive Board Director at IME Medical Electrospinning (Private, HQ Netherlands)

Richard Grotendorst – November 2018 – Supervisory Board Member at Atomic Austria GmbH (Public, HQ Austria)

Susana Gomez Smith – September 2019 – Non-Executive Board Director, Member Audit and Remuneration Committees at Banco CTT (Private, HQ Portugal)

Fernand Grulms – January 2019 – Non-Executive Board Director at BIL Manage Invest S.A. (Private, HQ Luxembourg) 

Matthew Kimball – June2019 – Board Member of Brunei Shell Marketing Company, JV of the Government of His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei and Shell Overseas Holdings Limited (Private, HQ Brunei)

Denise Koopmans – May 2019 – Non-Executive Board Director at Swiss Post (Public, HQ Switzerland)

Saskia Kunst – October 2019 – Chairman of the Board at Everitt Healthcare  (Private, HQ Netherlands)

Karen Loon – September 2018 – Independent Director, Chair Audit and Member Risk Committees at Banque Pictet & Cie (Asia) Ltd (Private, HQ Singapore)

Abdulla Al Mansoori – April 2019 – Member of Adv Board at Awad Capital (Private, HQ Dubai)

Andrea Prencipe – May 2019 – Chairman at Satispay Europe S.A. (Private, HQ Luxembourg)

Thomas Seale – June 2019 – Board Member at Norvestor VIII GP (Private, HQ Luxembourg)

Philip Spriet – June 2019 – Non-Executive Board Director at HRD (Private, HQ Belgium)

Nicoline Spruijt – January 2019 – Board Member at Brewery de Brabandere (Private, HQ Belgium)

Luc Sterckx – June 2019 – Non-Executive Board Director at Sarens Bestuur NV (Private, HQ Belgium)

Jeremy Tan – January 2019 – Executive Director at PTC Far East, Fayat Group (Private, HQ Singapore)

Jillian van Turnhout – October2019 – Board Member at The Arts Council of Ireland (State, HQ Ireland) 

IDN Members – Board Directors

Jeroen Cammeraat – March 2019 – Chairman of the Board at Cassini Technologies BV (Private, HQ Netherlands) 

Jack Clemons – January 2018 – Non-Executive Board Director at DKSH Holding AG (Listed, HQ Switzerland) 

Johan van Genechten – 2018– Chairman of the Board at Board Member at 4C Nordic – (Private, HQ Belgium) 

Chandra P Leo – November 2018 – Board Member at Galecto Biptech (Private, HQ Denmark) 

Paul Leinders – September 2018 – Board Member at Holding de Participation Marocaine (Private, HQ Marocco)  

IDN Board – New Board Directors

Karen Loon – September 2019 – Board Member, Member Communication & Membership Committees, Treasurer at INSEAD Directors Network (Non-Profit, HQ France)

Pamela Ravasio – September 2019 – Board Member, Member Fundraising Committee at INSEAD Directors Network (Non-Profit, HQ France)

Hagen Schweinitz – September 2019 – Board Member, Chair of the Membership Committee, Member Nomination & Communication Committees at INSEAD Directors Network (Non-Profit, HQ France)

Jeff Scott – September 2019– Board Member, Member Communication Committee, Lead for the IDN Ambassadors at INSEAD Directors Network (Non-Profit, HQ France)


Previous board position announcements by shared by IDN;

July 2019 February 2019 November 2018 July 2018 April 2018 January 2018 October 2017


For more information about: 

INSEAD International Directors’ Network:

INSEADs Corporate Governance Programmes:

For members of IDN, please ensure that you share your new appointments via survey shared to you vi mail, any queries contact [email protected]

For head hunters interested in finding international board members focused on staying up to date with latest board and governance insights, please contact IDN President, Helen Pitcher OBE, at [email protected]

For organisations interested in partnering with IDN, please contact IDN President, Helen Pitcher OBE, at [email protected]


On behalf of the INSEAD International Directors’ Network Board,

Liselotte Engstam,
IDN Board Member, Chair Communication Committee
[email protected]




Governance, culture and conduct – Lessons for all board directors

Governance, culture and conduct – Lessons for all board directors


by Karen Loon, IDP-C, IDN Board Member, Non-Executive Board Director, Chartered Accountant, Former PWC Partner 


The recent findings from the Banking Royal Commission into misconduct in the banking industry in Australia have been a strong reminder to directors in the banking industry on the importance of boards regularly assessing their organisations’ governance and culture.


Following the Global Financial Crisis (“GFC”), the banking industry has been plagued by numerous scandals and penalised, either by fines or operational risk capital charges.  Further, global organisations in non-financial sectors such as automotive and high-tech have also experienced misconduct issues which have been similarly profound.


It is evident that in many of these cases, culture, conduct and behaviours have, in large led to poor or sub-standard outcomes for customers and clients.  Often, systems and processes in place which were thought to have been adequate, were often not robust, allowing for complacency, judgement reflective of “group think”, and ultimately a poor culture.


With companies facing multiple issues such as growing their businesses, being innovative and competing against non-traditional players as a result of increased disruption, a challenge for many boards and senior management is how they manage their organisational culture as digitisation accelerates and impact their business models and strategies, as the sources and scope of conduct issues could change.





Experiences from the banking industry


Whilst the banking industry has devoted significant time and resources to understand the causes of the breakdowns of culture that contributed to the GFC, and to implement reforms to address them, unfortunately across all geographies and businesses, it has continued to be dogged by failures of corporate culture, conduct and governance.  These scandals have ranged from lapses in customer protection, to anti-money laundering deficiencies, to manipulation of market benchmark rates to rogue trading. The banking industry continues to suffer from a negative reputation, with its trust in significant need of repair.


Since the GFC, the public at large have voiced their concerns, leading to political involvement in the banking sector.  The way the political direction of the banking sector has played itself out has been through banking regulators.


As a result, in April 2018 the Financial Stability Board (“FSB”),an international body that monitors and makes recommendations about the global financial system issued a toolkit that firms and global banking supervisors can use to mitigate misconduct risk.  Further, in November 2018, the Group of Thirty (“G30”) an international body of leading financiers and academics which aims to deepen understanding of economic and financial issues and to examine consequences of decisions made in the public and private sectors related to these issues, identified eight lessons and twelve recommendations to the banking community for further work and additional focus.



What is culture and conduct for a bank?

Culture is the mechanism that delivers the values and behaviours that shape conduct and contributes to creating trust in banks and a positive reputation for banks among key stakeholders, both internal and external.


Culture comprises not only of conduct and behaviours, but also a bank’s values and ethics.  It has been described as “what people do when no-one is watching”, a description which captures what might be called the “internalised or “instinctive” application of shared values and norms.

Managing culture requires an understanding of visible conduct and behaviours, as well as the complex web of influences that lie beneath them.

Whilst conduct and behaviours (what people say and do) are only the visible elements of a culture, they are directly influenced by the less tangible elements, such as the bank’s unspoken rules, ideas, norms and subconscious beliefs that lie beneath the surface.

While cultural norms and beliefs cannot easily be measured, the conduct and behaviours that the cultural norms encourage or discourage can be. Conduct can be observed, monitored, managed and incentivised.


Source – Group of Thirty (2018)


The G30 noted that regaining trust will require persistent efforts across the industry, and that bank conduct and culture is at centre of the uphill battle to retain trust.  Unfortunately, they are of the view that many banks still lack clarity on how the board will champion, oversee and monitor conduct and culture issues, and whether a single dedicated committee of the board is appropriate. 

Their key recommendations in relation to senior accountability and governance were: 

  1. The board should re-evaluate its governance structure to ensure one specific and dedicated board committee has oversight over the bank’s conduct and culture.
  2. Bank boards and senior management should work more closely with various business units and with geographical and functional heads to strengthen the quality and availability of data and insights needed to manage conduct and culture.


The G30 also made other recommendations in relation to performance management and incentives, staff development and promotions, as well as ensuring the effectiveness of the three lines of defence.



Cross-industry lessons

In its 2018 report, the G30 identified five characteristics across industries that might provide insights into characteristics that lead to greater cultural risk.

1.     Lack of diversity – which can foster groupthink cultures.

2.     Presence of dominant companies – a few large, successful players dominate these industries and may lead to deprioritising cultures.

3.     High dependency on specialised skill sets

4.     Misaligned incentives

5.     Ineffective leadership and management skills

Source – Group of Thirty (2018)



Lessons for all board directors

A key responsibility of the board is to set the right tone from the top – to provide direction to their organisations regarding the culture that is expected of staff in pursuit of its organisational goals. Directors need to continually look for better ways to monitor corporate culture, understand potential cultural risks, and address problems, if any before they get out of control. 

In the new world, where trust inequality remains high, and where millennials customers and employees are becoming increasingly more influential, a focus on organisational values, culture and conduct will become increasingly more important.

Based on the lessons learnt from the banking industry, some of the questions which all boards should be asking themselves are:


Questions for directors to ask and “how to avoid being bamboozled by the executive”


1.     Does the board have the right skills and capability for culture oversight?

2.     Is the board clear in its governance structure which committee(s) have oversight over culture and conduct matters?  Where there is overlap between multiple board committees, is there sufficient communication amongst the committees in place to ensure alignment on priorities and initiatives?

3.     Are culture and conduct incorporated into board agendas, and are initiatives and processes benchmarked against other players on a regular basis?

4.     Does the board periodically review how conduct breaches are dealt with?

5.     Does the board have the right non-financial risk data and insights to assess the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of the company’s culture and its governance, identify problems with the culture and governance, deal with problems, and determine whether the changes it has made have been effective.  Does the data cover conduct (for example, fraud, mis selling, employee behaviour negatively impacting customers etc), cyber and technology, operational and regulatory/compliance risks?

6.     Is the board a conduit of direct access for escalation and whistleblowing?

7.     Are the board’s discussions focused on not only existing but emerging risks?

8.     Is the board as a whole devoting sufficient time to culture and conduct matters?

9.     Does the board visit functions and business units to allow them a first-hand observation of the behavioural atmosphere?

10.  Is the board satisfied with the tone set by the CEO and senior management to help ensure the culture fits with the organisation’s strategic direction and plans?

11.  Does the board believe that the current culture and values espoused by the board the best ones for the organisation now and in the foreseeable future?


1.     Does the company have robust and relevant structures, policies and processes in place to identify and report departures from desired behaviours and conduct (such as dashboard information, customer complaints and whistleblowing activities)? How does it verify that it does?

2.     Does the company have sufficient and capable resources applied to the identification, reporting and management of non-financial risks that the board and senior management are applying proper oversight over.

3.     Does the board believe that the company’s processes in relation to performance management and incentives, staff development and promotions, and the effectiveness of the three lines of defence (including scope of internal audit) meet the new higher expectations?  Does consequence management need enhancement?  Are risk and customer objectives appropriately reflected in remuneration outcomes?

4.     Does internal audit’s scope cover culture?  Do they have the right skills and resources to provide insight?

5.     Are the company’s metrics forward looking, relevant, effective, and aligned to reporting to identify emerging risks and manage conduct processes?






With increasing focus by companies beyond transactional metrics towards customer (and other stakeholder) outcomes, and broadening of definitions of misconduct from intentional foul play to potential unintended consequences, effective board oversight is needed to ensure that the embedding and sustaining of the desired culture will remain a permanent feature of doing business.  This will become increasingly more important as businesses respond to market dynamics that require speed, agility and responsiveness, and as stakeholder views and expectations evolve.  Increasingly, companies will need to prioritise people, both their customers and their employees.


Ultimately, the test of an effective board and organisational culture is the creation of value over time.  A positive culture can help ensure a company is best able to build sustainable value in the future.


Written by Karen Loon (IDP-C 2019), a former Partner and Banking and Capital Markets Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers (Singapore).

Thanks to Peter Nathanial, Co-director, INSEAD Modern Governance in Banking Programme, for input and guidance on this blog post. 




PricewaterhouseCoopers (2019), Impacts on Boards and Non-executive directors: Themes from the Royal Commission Final Report.  Retrieved from 

Schroeder, G. (2018, November), 5 key culture questions for boards, Company Director, 34 (10), 34-35.  Retrieved from 

The Group of Thirty (2018), Banking Conduct and Culture: A Permanent Mindset Change.  Retrieved from

A Step Change in Diversity Perspective: The shifting sands of diversity

by Helen Pitcher OBE, Chairman of Advanced Boardroom Excellence Ltd and President of the INSEAD Directors Network, and Ludo Van der Heyden, Chaired Professor of Corporate Governance at INSEAD.

In a changing world, with pressures at global, regional and local levels, the motivations of companies are in the mix.  These changes range from a rapidly increasing complexity of the business environment, through to heightened consumer ethical awareness, to a fracturing political landscape.

In this maelstrom of change for companies, there are more and more examples of individual and company role models, who are doing the ‘right’ things at Board level. By ‘right’ we mean moving with the times and reflecting a changing society with emerging values.

Increasingly, companies across the business landscape are recognising the need to measure up to the standards of their customers, consumers, societies and environments in which they operate. These challenges lead companies to be pulled by both global and local demands.  That some are moving faster than others is inevitable, and also a consequence of competitive pressures that call for differentiation.  But the pressure is on, especially in business with a ‘risk’ exposure to the values of the millennium generation that is even greater than the tension widely felt in politics.

This pressure on businesses goes way beyond a mere focus on gender and minority diversity, it confronts businesses with the case of ‘civil society’ and the need to state themselves clearly in the civil society.  It is a human question, and answers based only on simple profit computations will not satisfy the audience in this case.  The question calls for a statement of values and a recognition of the responsibility to respond to perspectives broader than individual motivations and myopic self-interest.

While there are and will be many rear-guard actions seeking to sustain the ‘privileges’ of greed and self-interest, the world is, as a result of the globalisation that technology has allowed and made inevitable, becoming closer knit, more informed and more aware of the many faces and forces of diversity. Citizens are naturally looking to governments (local, national and global) and increasingly companies to take collective responsibility to actively maintain their society, their employees and their planet, which is also our planet. In contrast perhaps to governments, there are fewer and fewer hiding places for errant behaviour of individuals and companies. The ‘call-out’ on social and broadcast media is swift and relentless, as the business world becomes more and more transparent. Ironically for many of the social media companies this has also cast a spotlight on their own dysfunctional behaviour. In the UK the recent movement of and investment funds out of the ‘cocoon’ of FTSE regulated governance to off-shore and less transparent jurisdictions has caused a front-page ‘outrage’ that speaks volumes of this new transparency requirement of “the people.”

As the waves of the financial crisis continue to ripple across the ‘pond’, the position of individuals as arbiters of ‘The System’ is seen as increasingly arcane, with the realisation that while the ‘heroes’ of the entrepreneurial world gain the ‘publicity’ for their ‘good, bad and the downright ugly behaviour’, it is the majority of society that overwhelmingly ‘own’ these businesses through their individual savings, their pension funds, and also, for the most fortunate, their sovereign funds.

In sum, there is an increasing focus on the contextual nature of our companies and their position in society regarding the balance of “people, planet and profit” as a priority. The ‘force field’ for these changes comes from a number of convergent pressures; the philosophies of a new ‘brand’ of millennium entrepreneurs, the increasing recognition that employee engagement and sustainability are linked, additionally, the emerging political agenda of worker-owner representatives, and the need for a tax system responsive to the majority and not the 1% is growing in many countries.  Single issue pressure groups focusing on gender, environment, ethical supply-chains etc. all add to a consistent, if not increasing pressure for change.

In this post financial crisis era, and also because of it, the ‘people’ movement has found voice. Politicians, in their eagerness to lead, are responding to these ‘voices’ by reflecting them and also by subsuming them into their emerging philosophies, from the ‘Green’ movement to the rising calls for employee representation on Boards. Unlike politicians who are regularly renewed when not thrashed out, most companies do not feel they have this luxury, nor do they wish to embrace seductive but risky and ultimately deceiving populism.  They are thus called out to respond, and the place for that debate, both for legal and effectiveness reasons, is the Board.


When we look at our companies’ Boards, they typically reflect astonishingly narrow strata of our society: typically male, typically male accountants, typically ‘aged’, typically technophobes and typically wealthy. This is compounded by the even narrower frame of reference of our typical Chairman, who as leaders of our companies and Boards, are almost exclusively male.


As we look to the present and future, we need Boards and companies that are able to respond to the shifting landscape of society and the breadth of strategic challenges and perspectives faced.  ‘The people’ will indeed increasingly look at boards as they should, namely as the place where the corporation defines and assumes its place in society.  This in turn requires a deep and hard look at the true diversity of our Boards.

While gender diversity continues at a pace that brings a fresher perspective to our Boards, it does not by itself go far enough. We need a dramatic revision of how we view diversity on Boards, so as to not merely replace male accountants with female accountants. The breadth of diversity on Boards needs a radical transformation to become an active chamber for perspective, debate, discussion and challenge. The competencies and capabilities on our Boards need to range far and wide, beyond the narrow financial oversight of ‘do the numbers add up’, to an external engagement with our customers, employees and society as a whole. While there are a number of exemplar companies that characterise this ‘modern’ board philosophy – and much can be learned from them – they are still in the minority.

We need a diversity of thinking on our Boards that brings a breadth and depth of corporate, functional, cultural, employee, shareholder, environmental and society perspectives. This should be driven by a primacy to facilitate, discuss debate, develop and challenge ideas and strategic intent, and assume the decision and direction ultimately chosen.  It is what we might call the diversity premium generated by boards for the companies in their care.

This diversity will continue to prove elusive if we merely look for like for like replacements. We need a mechanism to empower our Nominations Committees to think outside the box. A greater perspective on diversity of thinking and experience is needed enabled by the gender diversity that is now largely accepted.


In practical board terms diversity represents a competition between a narrowness of expertise and viewpoint to achieve financial oversight and a breadth of expertise to achieve strategic oversight. Historically, the emphasis has been on financial expertise, the board’s first language, duly reinforced by the financial crisis which indeed required boards to ‘carefully check the numbers’.

This view rests on the assumption that the financial crisis as a failure of financial understanding, whereas the reality – as identified in numerous reports and books, from the Davies Report onwards – puts the ‘blame’ squarely on Board conduct, and more specifically on behavioural deficiencies of Boards in lacking debate, discussion and challenge of the gaps between the operational performance of companies and their strategic intent. Psychologically, the skills of detailed financial analysis are rarely combined with those yielding a good strategic perspective.  Indeed, a number of the most widely used psychological recruitments tools regards these as contra indicators.  Diversity again is the answer here.


Board Perspective Competing knowledge and expertise




We need a better focus on the diversity of Boards that takes us beyond the gender viewpoint into a true diversity of thinking and insight. While additional criteria might be seen as seeking further qualification to ‘block’ more female appointments to Boards, the motivation for gender balance of Board laid in the requirement for much wider perspectives on the skills, expertise and viewpoints of candidates to support much grander diversity of thought and debate, resulting in a step wise improvement in Board effectiveness.   While the research is still emerging, the increase of female Board members is seen as having indeed introduced greater diversity to our Boards.

We now need an approach that builds on the existing research and that encourages us to think outside a mechanistic and historical review of Board capabilities, going beyond talking about board diversity as assembling people with different skills and profiles.  Time has come to look at diversity in another way:  the diversity within each director.

A more detailed look within the profile of each director has several benefits.  It reduces the “labelling” or “boxing in” of a director to a single dimension – be it gender, professional, industrial, cultural, or representing ownership – that is pernicious and generally (and rightfully) experienced by directors as negative (e.g. she is our “female” or “minority” director). It stresses the value of directors as contributing a broad portfolio of talents, skills and experiences to the Board. The essential role of the Board is to bring a “balance” of multiple interests and viewpoints. This role is more effectively played by individuals capable of multiple viewpoints and insights. Board dynamics are substantially helped by board members reaching out to others and challenging colleagues with skill and competence on the other side of the argument. It reduces the chances of particular directors exercising their power by virtue of their monopoly on a particular attribute or of the board functioning as a group of silos, board members exercising their views in their silos, and not contributing outside of their silo.

In management the concept of the T-shaped managers is seen as effective, a concept presented by Morten T. Hansen, in his book entitled Collaboration (Harvard Business School Press, 2009).  It suggests a core strength, the trunk of the T, with a breadth, the top of the T, to collaborate more effectively with colleagues and facilitate the exchange and furthering of ideas requiring not only a common language, but beyond a common understanding of what the words mean and stand for.

We can also learn from the insights that have emerged from the decision making and behaviour literatures (e.g. Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013) well summarized by Anaïs Nin as ‘we see the world as we are, and not as it really is’. The role of the board is to come to a collective view on issues hopefully ‘as they are,’ and on the risks that particular views may actually be wrong. Individual biases are pervasive roadblocks to excellent board discussion and effective conclusion of these discussions. One-minded individuals may be good for focused execution, but as board members such individuals are generally quite difficult to engage in discussions, have difficulties joining other viewpoints and rarely enrich collective debates that go in directions opposite to their own thinking, let alone admit that they were wrong and happily join the other side. In closing, let us remind ourselves that ‘experts’ are often wrong, be it in economic, military or medical forecasting.


Building on these ideas, and on the work that has characterised effective collaboration amongst managers, there is a benefit from seeking Board directors that are not just T-shaped, but in fact “triple PI” (like the Greek letter ‘π’) or “PI-cubed”.

This view seeks to articulate a broader perspective in the diversity debate concerning Board directors. It seeks to ‘benchmark’ directors on multiple perspectives and ‘drive’ their recruitment against those multiple perspectives, increasing the chances that they might be able to see things both from inside-out and outside-in. These perspectives are:

◼ A FUNCTIONAL ‘PI’, would reduce the bias that comes from being grounded and shaped in one function, valuing directors having at least one other functional strength (e.g. CFO with strong marketing experience). Such a director would more easily provide perspectives not simply emanating from a particular bias rooted in one functional background or expertise.

◼  A Business-industry ‘PI’ would bring a perspective from across differing business sectors and industries, for example mobile phone to banking, music business to mass engagement businesses.

◼ A Cultural-National ‘PI’, the perspective from different cultures and nationalities, again provides a richness of diverse perspective and insight, beyond a particular context or stereotype.  Here again the ‘Pi’ dimension is particularly valuable as culture is more easily recognized from a distance and through contrast.


Triple "PI"



Such a language, if applied, would provide Boards with a rich set of desirable characteristics:

◼ Members would make different and multiple contributions in the skills /experience /competence matrix;

◼ There would be more overlap amongst board members than would appear from the traditional skills matrix;

◼ It would make members appear as composed of a number of ‘slices’ or ‘skills’ – recognizing that board members are both more unique and more diverse than they might be led to appear by traditional methods;

◼ Avoids labelling (like female or digital director) and invites the exploration of the diversity within each board member;

◼ It gives an edge to people who contribute in multiple ways for they can contribute meaningfully to many discussions and through a multiplicity of viewpoints;

◼ It also lays to rest the argument for a “female” director – for when the “female” column is empty the female candidate deserves to be identified first (in terms of bringing value through literally “filling” a hole (or empty column);

◼ It would also allow a better justification of a director appointment in a GM meeting where directors are presented to shareholders (changes the nature of the discussion, by making it more analytical, objective, and rich in nuance and true diversity).


The main point of the argument is that we need to seek diversity in Board members in many more dimensions than is the case for functional executives.  It therefore also reminds us that superb but one-dimensional executives do not necessarily make for great Board directors, and that further benchmarking and discussion is needed in such cases.

As the global and also European economic sands shift, the need for a grander vision from the ‘collective’ Board community becomes stronger. The need to build diverse Boards that see beyond the myopic short termism and create profitable, socially aware and people focused businesses has never been greater.

Boards that espouse diversity as part of the solution will do better facing the complexities and turbulences the companies in their care currently face.  People and societies demand a more engaged and human business community. The Board population will continue to change with newer, younger more ‘millennial’ viewpoints emerging. As the population of Chairman moves on to a more diverse, more female and more environmentally and socially conscious cadre, this diversity will translate to more strategically expansive and engaged Boards, effectively collaborating to meet the increasingly difficult challenges ahead.


Article written by Helen Pitcher OBE, Chairman of Advanced Boardroom Excellence Ltd and President of the INSEAD Directors Network, and Ludo Van der Heyden, Chaired Professor of Corporate Governance at INSEAD, originally published at “Advanced Boardroom Excellence blog

26 New International Board Appointments of IDN Members

IDN Members Board & Corporate Governance Positions Announcement 2Q – 2019 

Recognising INSEADs International Directors´ Network, IDN  members and the strength of the network, we are proud to share our members recent appointments of board and corporate governance positions.

IDN members has been appointed to 26 new board positions in 16 countries, summing up to 180 position announcements since 2017.

The IDN network facilitates contacts, shares insights and experiences on international board topics and promotes excellence in corporate governance. 

IDN is one of the globally leading professional networks of International Board Directors. The IDN Network holds more than thirteen hundred board qualified members, of which 677 has become certified IDP-C / IDBP-C.

Full membership is open to all INSEAD Alumni with appropriate directorship experience and is automatic for Certified Directors (IDP-C) from INSEADs International Directors Program (IDP).

INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre, ICGC, a close partner to IDN, undertakes cutting-edge research and teaching tailored to the needs of boards and international directors. ICGC fosters a global dialogue on the challenges of corporate governance and leadership in an international context.

IDN Members New Board & Corporate Governance Positions

IDN members – Certified IDP-C Board Directors 

Doris Albisser – June 2019 – Chairman at SOS Children’s Villages Switzerland (NGO, Switzerland)

Carsten Bennike – April 2019 – Non-Executive Chair at Noreco A/S (Private, HQ Denmark)

João Bento – May 2019 – CEO & Board Member at CTT Portugal Post(Listed, HQ Portugal)

Bas Boots – December 2018 – Member Supervisory Board – Brightlands Agrifood Vetntures (Private, HQ Netherlands) 

Katia Ciesielska – February 2019 – Non-Executive Board Director at CCA Life Settlements (ManCo, Luxembourg)

Magali Depras – September 2018 – Board Member, Member of Governance Committee at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (NGO, HQ Canada) & June 2019 – Board Member at Canadian Plastic Industry Association (NGO, HQ Canada)

Irina Frolova – May 2019 – Member of Supervisory Boardat HZPC Holding B.V. (Private, HQ Netherlands)  and at ATC Europe B.V. (Private, HQ Netherlands)   

Daniel Frutig – March 2019 – Member of the Board of Directors at Zehnder Group AG(Listed, HQ Switzerland)

Alison Gaines – January 2019 – Member Asia-Pacific & the Middle East and Chair of its Nomination & Governance Committee; Member, Global Nomination & Governance Committee at AESC (Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants), (Professional Association, HQ USA)

Luigi Passamonti – May 2019 – Board Member and Treasurer at European Cyclists’ Federation (NGO, HQ Belgium)

Susana Gomez Smith – March 2019 – Non-Executive Board Director, Member Remuneration and Nomination Co at Leonteq (Listed, HQ Switzerland)

Irek Kulka – March 2019 – Independent Non-Executive Board Member, Chairman of Audit Committee at Enea SA (Listed, HQ Poland) 

Marcia De Wachter – May 2019 – Non-Executive Board Member, Member Audit Committee, Chair of Committee for Conflict of Interestat Lease Invest Reit of Ackermans & van Haaren Group(Listed, HQ Belgium)

Kimberly Wiehl – May 2019 – Board Director at American Arbitration Association (Professional Body, HQ USA)

Konstantinos Yazitzoglou – April 2019 – Board Member at Hellenic Management Association(Non Profit, HQ Greece)

IDN Members – Board Directors 

Dimitri Chichlo – June 2019  – Non-Executive Independant Board Director at Ukreximbank (State-owned, HQ Ukraine) 

Jack Clemons – January 2018 – Non-Executive Board member at DKSH Holding AG (Listed, HQ Switzerland) 

Marko Cosic – January 2018 – Board Member at HEP Group (Government, HQ Croatia) 

Susanne Hannestad – April 2019 – Non-Executive Board Director at Crunchfish AB (Listed, HQ Sweden) 

Roland Krueger – January 2019 – Member of the Board & Executive Director Board Member at Dyson Manufacturing Holdings (Private, HQ Singapore) 

Roy Ling – February 2019 – Lead Independent Director at Debao Development Company Ltd (Listed, HQ Singapore) 

Victor Ong – June 2019 – Board Member at CFA Society of Singapore (Non Profit, HQ Singapore)

Gang Wu – April 2019 – Independent Director at Ashurst LLP (Private, HQ UK)

Previous board position announcements by shared by IDN;

February 2019November 2018  July 2018  April 2018  January 2018   October 2017

On behalf of the INSEAD International Directors’ Network Board,

Liselotte Engstam,
IDN Board Member, Chair Communication Committee
[email protected]

For more information about: 
INSEAD Directors’ Network:
INSEADs Corporate Governance Programmes:

For organisations interested in partnering with IDN, please contact IDN President, Helen Pitcher OBE, at [email protected]

For head hunters interested in finding international board members focused on staying up to date with latest board and governance insights, please contact Mary Francia via [email protected]

For interested parties follow our IDN blogsharing insights on current governance topics, and follow our social media accounts,  IDN at LinkedIn  and @InseadIDN at Twitter, regularly sharing relevant board content.

With more women as board chairs, business can better serve society

With more women as board chairs, business can better serve society.

“Companies should benefit all their stakeholders. This is increasingly on the minds of regulators, activists, politicians, pension investors and individuals of this world.

If we want boards to deliver benefits for a wider stakeholder group – and stop focusing on short-term profits – we need to shift the dial on women becoming chair of these boards. Failing that, the corporate landscape won’t change.”

INSEAD Directors Network President Helen Pitcher OBE, Chair of Advanced Boardroom Solutions (INSEAD IDP-C), shares more insights at the INSEAD Blog in the article Women Chairs: The Time is Now“.

Independent External Board Reviews

This blogpost was first shared at and is an excerpt from an article published in Spring 2019 at Ethical Boardroom. _____________________________

 Independent external board reviews 


IDN President Helen Pitcher, OBE 

Independent external board evaluations emerged in parallel with the general development of the governance code for companies. The question now arises whether their current shape is fit for purpose in the modern corporate environment, where society/CSR and employee engagement are playing an increasing part in the context of a company’s right to operate and accumulate numerous benefits and advantages from society?

As the code of governance became more formal, so the question arose of how the effectiveness of the board would be monitored. While the legal aspects of operating a company has a built-in ‘monitor’ through the courts and regulatory agencies, governance monitoring has emerged as a voluntary process, over which the company and board have significant discretion and control. Best practice has been led in the UK by the FTSE 100 companies and influenced by the governance compliance indexes, which inform the investor communities of the ‘governance footprint’ of a company.

The emerging code and evaluation

Under the FRC (Financial Reporting Council) Governance Code in UK, the use of independent external board evaluation has staggered into existence in the form it has today. Emerging from the Higgs Report in 2003 the combined code suggested good practice to be ‘an annual evaluation of board performance’ with the suggestion that ‘use of an external third party will bring objectivity to the process’. The 2006 code retained the annual performance evaluation, but the reference to external facilitation disappeared!

It wasn’t until 2010 that an externally facilitated review at least every three years became part of the code in UK for the FTSE 350, this included a statement of the facilitator’s connection to the company. The following year the FRC produced a ‘Guidance on Board Effectiveness’, which set out a detailed approach to the ‘independent externally facilitated board evaluation’. This started a process of creating a board evaluation standard, but which was still voluntary under the ‘comply or explain’ doctrine.

Since 2011 the ‘independent external board evaluation’ process has meandered on, with various failed attempts at a code of practice, including ABExcellence code of Advanced Boardroom Excellence published in 2014, which sought to advance the discussion. All these endeavours called for greater formalisation of what would be covered by a board review. Consequently, the interpretation of what should be covered in an independent and externally facilitated review was, and still is, at the discretion of the board and covers a wide range of standards applied to supporting the effectiveness of the board.

To read full article click here


Read more about becoming an IDN member. For upcoming webinars see our event calendarIf you are an IDN Member or IDN Partner, or like to become an IDN Partner, with a questions or suggestion on contribution to a future IDN Webinar or IDN Blogpost, contact [email protected].

Why Should Boards Care About Culture?

This blogpost is shared as part of a series of insights from INSEAD Directors Network, based on webinars run for IDN Network members exclusively, and invites shared via mail. For more about our webinars, becoming a member or a partner with our network, see further down in blogpost.

On March 19 IDN Directors Network held a webinar on the topic Bords role in guiding corporate culture and diversity for strategy alignment. The expectations on boards to guide and monitor corporate culture and diversity and align it to desired strategic outcomes are increasing. In the webinar we listened to experiences on managing and influencing corporate culture and diversity, how it can be guided and monitored by the board, and shared and discussed experiences

We listened to Magali Depras, Chief of Strategy at TC Transcontinental, MBA, IDP-C, President Insead NAA Canada, sharing experiences on the topic and Kay Formanek  CEO KAY Diversity & Performance, INSEAD faculty on Diversity topic, Leadership Coach and Speaker, sharing approaches used and related trends.  

This is a follow up guest blog post shared by Kay de Gier on this important topic, and relating some of the insights shared at the webinar.



Why Should Boards Care About Culture?

By Kay Formanek

Let us tackle this question by first having a robust understanding of the term culture. Culture in a corporate context is defined as “a combination of the values, attitudes and behaviours manifested by a company in its operations and relations with its stakeholders. These stakeholders include shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers and the wider community and environment which are affected by a company’s conduct.”

Photo: Unsplash

Boards are starting to care deeply about culture and this is anchored in 2 primary reasons:

  1. The impact on total enterprise value when a reputational crises occurs has increased dramatically. This can be explained by intangible assets as a percentage of total corporate value increasing from 20% to 80% from the 1980’s to today.
  2. A positive culture has been shown to deliver higher engagement, higher financial performance and long-term sustainability.

These factors have resulted in an examination of the role of boards in setting and monitoring culture. The UK Corporate Governance Code specifically ascribes to boards the responsibility for setting the company’s values and standards, while the preface to the Code states:

‘One of the key roles for the board includes establishing the culture, values and ethics of the company. It is important that the board sets the correct “tone from the top”. The directors should lead by example and ensure that good standards of behaviour permeate throughout all levels of the organisation. This will help prevent misconduct, unethical practices and support the delivery of long-term success.’ – UK Code. (1)

The reading of the UK Code sets out expectations from the board at the strategic level and also at the operational level.

At the strategic level the board is expected to set and monitor the company’s culture, in terms of values and behaviors, so as to deliver best value creation and ensure that incentives support the desired culture.

At an operational level the board is expected to obtain assurances that the desired culture permeate throughout the organization and that there are not pockets within the organization where values are undermined and at risk.

Not all countries have issued a Code, like the UK Code where the role of boards in culture setting and monitoring are defined. Yet increasingly boards are applying time and attention to setting out their role and actions in both setting and monitoring the culture of their organization.

Yet how do boards influence culture in practice? As a first step a board needs to support the development of a clear purpose of the organization and to describe the values by which the organization conducts its business.  Stakeholders will read much into the behavior of the board itself and thus the board needs to behave in a manner that is consistent with the espoused values and the desired culture. The CEO is probably the most important role in articulating and translating the desired culture within the organization and its operations. Thus the appointment and removal of the CEO is one of the most important levers of a board in influencing culture.

And yet, the difficult part for a board is to monitor and assess the culture within the organization. How is this done considering that culture may be considered intangible and difficult to measure?

The reality is that there is no one measure or instrument that will provide an answer to the board on the state of their organisational culture. However there some great hints (lets us call them the litmus test of culture) that boards can use as a proxy for a positive or negative culture.  In the interesting article “11 Toxic Tell Tale Signs of a Noxious Culture”, Forbes 2018 (2), eleven indicators of a potentially sick culture are listed and serve as a reminder to boards on what they can be looking for to yield an answer on the state of their culture.

The 11 Toxic Tell Tale Signs of a Noxious Culture include:

  • Not enough talk about innovation, indicating a potential lack of focus from the leadership on the innovation agenda of a company
  • Employees fear retaliation, indicating that leaders are not subscribing to values of respect and transparency and teaming
  • Cross-department collaborations stall, indicating that departmental incentives may be mis-aligned and that there may be an absence of a common purpose
  • Fear, apathy, exhaustion and over-politeness, indicating lack of engagement and avoidance of raising issues that should be discussed
  • Microaggressions in the form of bias, indicating the presence of stereotypes and a none-inclusive environment
  • Low employee retention rates, indicating that employees may not feel a sense of belonging and being valued
  • Aversion to taking risks, indicating that there may be a fear to make mistakes
  • Something does not feel right (instinctive knowing), when observers have a “gut feel” that something is awry and “things do not add up”
  • “No” isn’t an option, indicating that top down orders may need to be fulfilled without discussion
  •  People seek reassurance outside meetings, indicating potential issues of distrust and second-guessing formal communication channels
  •  Silence or defensive communication, indicating that there is resistance and a fear of speaking up


In addition to these tell-tale signs, there are a number of instruments that offer a great view of the culture of an organization. Let me share three examples, out of a multitude of tools that are present in the market.


Glassdoor (3) is a website where current and former employees anonymously review companies and their management. The site collects comments and averages scores posted under headings such as CEOs, salaries, hiring process and what it is like to work in jobs in general at each company. Glassdoor offers boards a unique window on what is being said about the organization and the company leadership.


There are also assessments that offer a measure of the alignment of values throughout the company.  The Cultural Values Assessment (CVA) of Barrett Values Centre (4) provides a clear view on the overall values alignment within an organisations and points to the factors that get in the way of people doing their jobs and prevents customers from experiencing the full potential of the organization.


The Hairball Social Network mapping tools, graphically represents the degree of interaction and collaboration within an organization and can provide clues on whether cross-department collaboration has stalled.

In conclusion:

The role of the board in setting and monitoring culture is critical in an environment where a positive culture is directly linked to organization sustainability and corporate value. While there is no “one-stop-shop” assessment of the culture in an organization, there are a variety of indicators and tools that offer the board an excellent view on the state of the culture of an organization. These tools are for the plucking of any board, but require a board to register the importance of culture and to undertake the strategic and operational interventions that are required to sustain a positive culture in the organization.



2.  11 Telltale Signs Of A Toxic Company Culture — And What You Can Do To Start Fixing Things; Forbes Coaches Council






Other relevant information shared


INSEAD Research: Corporate Culture Alarmingly low priority for boards


Identifying and responding to a Dysfunctional Culture (incl interview of IDN Board Member Liselotte Engstam)


Focus on Corporate Culture to prevent the next scandal


Read more about becoming a member and about previous webinars. For upcoming webinars see our event calendar.If you are an IDN Member or IDN Partner, or like to become an IDN Partner, with a questions or suggestion on contribution to a future IDN Webinar, contact [email protected].

More insight from INSEAD Directors Network webinars will be shared – Lookout for more upcoming blogposts!


 ‘Creating Female Chairman before the lights go out’ 


by IDN President Helen Pitcher, OBE


The sustainability of companies and businesses able to contribute and benefit all of their stakeholders, is increasingly at the forefront of the minds of Politicians, Regulators, Society Pressure groups and Individuals. It is also the clarion call of the massive Pension Investment sector focused on aligning investments to positive benefits and stewardship for society. 

Larry Fink Chairman and CEO- Blackrock’s 2019 Letter to CEOs, Purpose & Profit 

Each year, I write to the companies in which BlackRock invests on behalf of our clients, the majority of whom have decades-long horizons and are planning for retirement. As a fiduciary to these clients, who are the owners of your company, we advocate for practices that we believe will drive sustainable, long-term growth and profitability. As we enter 2019, commitment to a long-term approach is more important than ever – the global landscape is increasingly fragile and, as a result, susceptible to short-term behavior by corporations and governments alike. 

Unnerved by fundamental economic changes and the failure of government to provide lasting solutions, society is increasingly looking to companies, both public and private, to address pressing social and economic issues. 

My own recent journey in business, learning and the company Board landscape has provided both the frustration and the drive to seek and achieve a shift in that Board landscape. I view the opening up and diversity of Chairmanship of Boards as key to the future of sustainable long-term profit, with society focused Boards which deliver a benefit for a wider stakeholder group and not just a short-term profit focused ‘cabal’. 

There are excellent male Chairman leading some of our great companies, large and small. There are however, too many who are stuck in a paradigm of the ‘old way’ who pay scant attention to the driving forces for increased accountability of Boards to their stakeholder beyond the shareholders, who seek to ‘dodge’ and minimise the impact of the ‘Codes’ and these broader pressures in a narrow myopic interpretation of their role. The impending demise and re-boot of the FRC (Financial Reporting Council), is a testament to their lacklustre engagement with the new future landscape of Boards. 


The success of the gender targets from the Davies Report of 25 % females on Boards in the FTSE 100 was commendable. However, since then the challenge and focus has been on maintaining this, never mind increasing to 33%, together with gaining traction within the FTSE 250 Executive Committees and Executive Leadership Pipelines. 

This should not be a struggle, the barriers to achieving these targets are well known and facile. In the broadest context the loss and leakage of competent females throughout the ‘career chain’ is a significant and unnecessary waste of resources. As we move up the career hierarchy, the compound development ‘value’ that has been invested in an individual woman at a senior level is enormous. It is time to stop this wastage and get on with the job of facilitating women to achieve the top roles in our companies. They have just as much right to succeed, and fail, as their male counterparts. The conspicuous and outstanding talent to run and govern our companies is not in such great supply that we can afford to ignore 40% of the potential candidates. 

Your value will be not what you know; it will be what you share. – Ginni Rometty, Chairman & CEO IBM


The slow albeit accelerating process of achieving women on Boards, is in my mind compounded massively by a stunning lack of progress and discussion on the creation of Women as Chairman of our companies. The latest research for INSEAD suggests that there will be 20% of women as Chairman of our Boards by 2027 (INSEAD Research by Professor Stanislav Shekshnia). 

My view is that we need to ‘skip’ a male generation and drive the appointment of female Chairman more quickly and beyond that 20%, to unlock a Board landscape that is held hostage by the basic ‘hard skills’ of number crunching and reductionist thinking. 

As you look at the skills and expertise required to be an effective Chairman, something strange happens! If you disassemble the ‘hard rule-based skills’ and ‘soft emotional intelligence skills’ argument something strange happens! If you invert the required skills of an effective Chairman into a hierarchy of skills something strange happen! 

It suggests that women are eminently qualified and pre-disposed to be Chairman, more so than men?  

The peer review research, the survey research evidence and the anecdotal evidence for what makes an effective Chairman is very clear. Beyond an obvious group of qualifying skills of integrity, personal strength, courage and intelligence, the skills that emerge as critical and defining are; an ability to influence others without dominating, having an engaged vision of the future, strong emotional intelligence and coaching skills.

To paraphrase a quote on effective Chairmanship from Stanislav Shekshnia, Senior Affiliate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise at INSEAD and Director of the INSEAD Leading from the Chair Programme. 

To be effective Chairman must recognize that they are not commanders but facilitators. Their role is to create the conditions under which the Board can have productive group discussions. They should recognize that they are not first among equals. They are just the person responsible for making everyone on their board a good director. 

The Behavioural-Emotional skills which are to the fore are, emotional awareness – an ability to read the room, emotional empathy – an ability to connect and get alongside people, interpersonal adeptness-an ability to contextualise a situation to the individual, interpersonal influencing – an ability to use a range of influencing strategies and the ability to build trust upon which people can rely. 


The Business case is clear, research shows that businesses with greater gender diversity out perform others, have a risk profile which is typically healthier and make better investment decisions, which generate greater client and customer satisfaction, DIAGEO, GSK, Whitbread, Hargreaves Lansdown, Next, Taylor Wimpey are cases in point. All of whom are at or exceed 50% Women on the Board and in excess of 33% in the Executive level. The skill of the Chairman in this context is the orchestrating of diverse inputs, creating a tone that genuinely values and listens to diverse views, leading to a healthier and more sustainable culture. 

These ‘softer’ skills required of a Chairman, as opposed to a CEO or CFO, consist of the traits on the Behavioural-Emotional spectrum such as facilitating, listening, synthesizing, handling conflict, giving formative feedback and artfully creating a culture of supportive challenge to ensure effective decisions are made. These are complex, sophisticated and tough to acquire skills which go way beyond the ‘hard’ rules-based skills which can be taught and measured. Women more typically have these skills in abundance, having deployed and refined them early in their life and careers. 

As we seek to broaden, strengthen and perpetuate society and stakeholder engagement from the leaders of our companies, we need to understand and articulate better the underlying specification of the role of Chairman of a company. Research shows there is a difficult transition from CEO to Chairman, moving from a CEO profile where the more masculine descriptors of drive, ambition, ruthlessness etc. underline many of the CEO person specifications. 


As mentioned earlier without intervention the research predicts we will get to 20% of women in the Chairman role by 2027. This is too slow; the target should be to get to 35% by 2025 and 50% by 2027. 

While target set for Women on Boards is largely moving in the right direction, the Women as Chairman issue is still outstanding. The setting of targets for Women on Boards has achieved what decades of legislation has not. While there are still pockets of resistance and a need to push progress in some new areas, the debate has largely moved on from the why? (this now being clear), to how do we sustain success? And extend this success further down the FTSE and into the Executive Pipeline to create a sustainable pool of diverse candidates? 

However, with Women Chairman we are not there yet, with still too many active resistors, Headhunters, Chairman, Nominations Committees, combining with stereotypes which perpetuate the view that you need 10 years Board experience to qualify to be considered. 

However, the case for gender diversity at organisational levels applies equally to a macroeconomic level. More Women in the Chairmanship role can help rebuild the trust in UK PLCs and build businesses that deliver business performance combined with social and environmental benefits, leading to greater sustainability in our society. 

The then Chair of the Parliamentary Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, when launching the publication of the Committees Report on Corporate Governance said: 

recent scandals and the issue of executive pay have undermined public trust in corporate culture. That, together with rising stakeholder expectations, changing business models and technology, means that corporate governance needs to evolve to provide assurance to investors and wider society. 

The rise of “ownerless companies”, where no single investor has a sufficiently large stake in the business to act as a responsible owner, checking performance and behaviour, provides a significant challenge to sound corporate governance. Successful, productive and profitable companies cannot be disconnected from society. Businesses have wider responsibilities than short-term profits; they have a responsibility to their employees, their suppliers, and to the communities in which they operate. 

The social case for women Chairman is clear, ranging from societal benefits, to greater empowerment and inclusion of women, visible role models, as well as access to a broader talent pool and range of diverse skills. This in turn addresses the issue of male Board Directors ‘overboarding’, which is well known and proven to be detrimental to organisational performance. Example abound of male Chairman on numerous Boards, which erodes confidence in our commercial business sector. 

There is a growing and enthusiastic enclave of advocates for the acceleration of progression of Women in the Chairman’s role, including existing Female Directors, both Executive and Non-Executive, Women on Boards Network, IWF (International Women’s Forum), MACA (Men as Change Agents) CBI, IOD, 30% Club. 6 

The emerging initiative is for an advocacy group to focus on this issue, including many of our enlightened Chairman who are enthusiastic potential mentors, along with the high-profile influencers who are in a position to ‘shift the dial.’ 


In pushing this initiative forward hopefully we will not have to revisit the excuses first heard in the Hampton-Alexander Review (Top 10 excuses for not appointing women to boards), of which my particular favourite was “There aren’t that many women with the right credentials and depth of experience to sit on the board – the issues covered are extremely complex”. 

Women themselves will also need to bolster their resolve, they often don’t express the ambition to be Chairman, having the limiting self-belief it is beyond their grasp. They need to overcome the age-old mind-set which causes them to seek to ‘over-qualify’ and be ‘over-capable’ before targeting themselves at the role. 

The softer skills of facilitation, collaboration, listening, co-ordinating, synthesising, articulating, handling and defusing conflict, ensuring decisions are taken and being personable, typically regarded as feminine traits, are the foundation of successful Chairmanship (INSEAD Leading from the Chair Research). While being directive, overly assertive, impersonal, displaying a fighting spirit, leading from the front etc are contra indicators of effective Chairman. 

Educating Nominations Committee members (39% of whom are Women) in how to formulate gender neutral job and person specifications is key, along with conducting a detailed skills audit of the Board with Diversity as a core dimension. This is best practice, but not universally applied. The new Combined Code effective January 2019 will drive this in part, with its focus on diversity and a cap on total time served on a Board. 

Typically, Headhunters are complicit in stating that Female Chairs are difficult to find, they used to state this before targets came in for Women on Boards too. The statistics show this is not true, with a growing pool of able women in the public, private and not for profit sectors, fulfilling both Chairman and Chair of Committee roles. This needs a step-change in imagination to solve this limiting belief. 

Also a shift needs to be made in the Recruitment-Development processes, moving from a stereotypical view of the Chairman role profile, towards a more creative resourcing, on-boarding and mentoring support process developing more appropriate role models. 

While women are typically well versed in the need for self-directed development and learning, there does need to be a more active sponsorship and development of women at the Board level to engage with development for the Chairmanship role. This needs to go beyond the typical Big Four Information sessions on e.g. Audit/Risk/Cyber/Governance, into a more creative development framework of Board level development. This will require women to step beyond the Board for their development, as many Boards have insufficient Board time allocated to developing both their knowledge spectrum and the dynamics within the Boardroom. 

By definition being on a Board epitomizes flexible working, which suits the multi-tasking skills women develop early in their lives and careers and plays into a more self-directed focus on development aided by Technology e.g. Board Portals, WebEx, Virtual Boardrooms etc. 

INSEAD provide excellent Development Programmes via the INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre enabling Directors to certify as Corporate Directors and attend ongoing CPD webinars, seminars etc provided by the IDN (Directors Network). Other programmes include Leading from the Chair, Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption, Gender Diversity etc etc. 


With the women I coach they often express initial surprise when I challenge them to aim for the role of Chairman. Helping them map out how to get there, in both experience and development terms a key aspect of unlocking this potential. 

We need to aim beyond the 20% by 2027, with a target of 30-35% by 2025 and 50% by 2027. In discussions with influencers and colleagues focused on the diversity of Boards, they and I share a disappointment at the pace of change towards Female Chairman. Consequently, it is time to drive practical and direct action to accelerate the acquisition of more female Chairman, right across the FTSE environment. 

The data of the available pool indicates with appropriate focus this is achievable. Exemplars do exist such as DIAGEO, Burberry, GSK etc. with a growing number of Women as Chairman of Board Committees. In addition, we have the FTSE 250 as a fertile resource pool and development ground for Women’s Chairmanship skills. Let’s also not forget the Public Sector, which notwithstanding some bias against moving women from the Public Sector across to the FTSE, provides a creative pool of resources. Finally, the expanding pool of women coming through the Executive Pipeline will also add to the availability of diverse resource going forward. 

The new Combined Code with its 9-year total cap on service on an individual Board (including time as NED and Chairman) will create more churn and frankly the Investment Community needs to start asking mediocre Chairman to step down. A cap on the age of Chairman might also be considered (similar to the judiciary). 

It is time to push through this current psychological log jam and actively discuss the facilitative and revolutionary-evolution to remove this limiting mental model and image stereotype of Chairman. There will need to be a concerted effort from Headhunters, Chairman, the media and the other wide range of interested groups to draw on available mentors and sponsors as well as to challenge thinking and make this happen. 

As with many of you, I am committed to increasing the number of Female Chairman and supporting Boards to make it part of their sustainability focus for their companies, as an exemplar of Board performance and a beacon for the diversity of their Executive pipelines 

This Blogpost has also been shared on March 2019 at

Sustainability and ESG in the Board Room

This blog post is shared as part of a series of insights from INSEAD Directors Network (IDN), based on a webinar entitled ‘Sustainability and ESG impacts on Boards’ given on 18thof February 2019. The IDN Webinar series  focuses on on current international topics in board work and facilitates for IDN members to share learn and knowledge, as well as to get to know each other.
The webinars are facilitated by an IDN board member, and evidently exclude any explicit marketing of products or services.


Sustainability and ESG in the Board Room:  Long-term value creation and the board’s fiduciary objective

Photo: Drew Beamer, Unsplash


This webinar entitled “Sustainability and ESG impacts on Boards” was facilitated by Liselotte Engstam (IDP-C, IDN board Member), and featured two speakers:

Sophie Beric



Sophie Beric (Idinvest Partners, Paris, France)




Pamela Ravasio



Dr. Pamela Ravasio (IDP-C, FICRS).



The webinar aimed at addressing the following key aspects:

  • Why is sustainability / ESG board room relevant?
  • How does ESG link to Sustainable Development Goals that everyone seems to talk about?
  • Personal engagement and Dashboards: How investors interact and ‘educate’ the companies they are invested in.
  • Sustainability & ESG: The risk vs the opportunity perspective.
  • Getting started as a board in sustainability: Where and how to get off the ground asap


Sophie Beric first introduced the participants to the investor’s point of view. In her presentation she elaborated on the inherent paradox between the longer-term perspective that investors such as pension funds – accounting for very significant proportions of invested capital – by definition should have, and their demand for regular financial performance resulting in quarterly publication pressure on the executive management.

Non-listed companies however are exempt from market pressure and therefore private equity investors and administrators are more aligned when in comes to longer-term stakes.

Sophie explained the differences between the 3 broad investor categories that exist:

  • Mainstream investors’: Actively manage their portfolio, buy low and sell high, and aim to have high exit price fast.
  • Engaged investors’: Accompany transformation of traditional companies into impactful ones.
  • Impact investors’: Channel funds towards impactful products/services

She then linked these to the developments seen both in the large cap sector, e.g. in the focus of Blackrock Larry Fink’s CEO letters since 2016, as well as the demand of institutional investors that require long-term risk scenarios or trajectorial progress on SDG indicators.

Lastly, she outlined how her own company, Idinvest Partners, accompanies its portfolio companies in their transformation journeys, in particular through Sustainability & Impact KPI dashboards which play back to each investee how their performance looks like along ESG categories, and the SDG trajectory, and which is used to engage with a senior executive and boards to discuss the company’s strategy and its impact (positive or negative) on long-term value creation.

Subsequently, Dr. Pamela Ravasio went on to discuss company strategic rationales for a board engagement in sustainability/ESG as well as ‘get go’ approaches.

In doing so she outlined the link of sustainability/ESG to a board’s fiduciary duty of long-term value creation (and not just value preservation), and why expanding the horizon to consider arising opportunities – not just risks – that are to be expected in the fundamental changes in our economic systems, have been by and large ignored to this moment.

Pamela further outlined a set of questions for the board to ask in order to start the discussion internally in the board but also with their executives (see picture 1, underneath):

Questions for the Boardroom, by Pamela Ravasio


She also outlined what role existing board committees could play immediately and without needing to wait for experts to be acquired (on the board, or at executive level) (picture 2).

Board Opportunities to use existing structures, by Pamela Ravasio


The webinar was wrapped up with the insight that the term ‘sustainability’ indeed has nothing to do with ‘saving the planet’ and ‘the green agenda’ as many senior executives and mainstream investors believe. Terms that suggest that merely ‘unnecessary’ cost are created.

Much rather, the term refers to the economic reality that in order to be ‘financially sustainable’ – very much like an accountant would understand the term – the long-term value creation strategy must be firmly built-into a company.

This will be one of the – possibly THE – decisive factor, if indeed a business desires to exists at all in only a few very short decades from now.



Upcoming Event:

The subject is of evident high interest and relevant to many companies, boards and society. It is for this reason that the following INSEAD 2-day conference has been scheduled:

  • Title: Towards Sustainability: A New Curriculum for Boards
  • Time and Date: April 8 and 9
  • See the Programme
  • Location: INSEAD Fontainebleau Campus, France
  • Organisers:
    • INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (ICGC),
    • The Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society (HGIBS)
    • World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
  • For more information and registration, please visit the event website