Panel tackle business world hot topics at conference

Women on boards, top brass pay packets and short-termism were just some of the hot topics discussed by a special panel of business world luminaries at a conference on corporate governance held at the university this week.

Chaired by Lord Ian MacLaurin, former CEO and Chairman of Tesco, the panel brought together Sir Julian Horn-Smith, founding member of Vodafone Group and former Deputy CEO of Vodafone, Philip Lowe, Director General for Energy in the European Commission and former Director General of Competition, Charles Tilley, Chief Executive of CIMA and Lord Christopher Tugendhat, Former Chairman of Abbey National.

All agreed boards needed to reflect society – not just with more women but also with more people from ethnic minorities. “But they are no places for amateurs. Boards are not the places for tokenism or quotas. It should be about talent and ability,” added Lord Tugendhat.

He also said that transparency and accountability, with a strong link to objectives, were also important to tackling the issue of how society views executive pay packets.“People should be properly remunerated for running large and complex organisations but there also needs to be a clear understanding of how objectives and remuneration are linked in a transparent way. Pay packages also are skewed towards short-termism. You might not get your bonus if things go wrong but equally nothing gets taken away. So incentives are disproportionately skewed upwards but not matched by a downside.”

Philip Lowe talked about his work in the European Union and also made the point that corporate governance was not something just for private or publicly quoted companies. “Corporate governance is just as relevant to organisations like the NHS, the European Union and even the nuclear safety executives which cross borders with their responsibilities.”

This global view was echoed by Sir Julian Horn-Smith who called on academics to turn their attention to how corporate governance is viewed differently across cultures and continents. As more companies work globally, they have to become adept at challenging different views of what is considered best practise but without causing offence. “There are different views on what is considered best practise even across Europe. Cultural clashes and challenges arise and it would be interesting for academics to study this area.”

Charles Tilley said he felt that with ‘trust in business at an all-time low customer focus is key.’ “Incentives can important but they can undermine trust but the focus really needs to be on the customer. I believe the John Lewis model has a lot to commend it.”

The panel session brought to a close the first of a two day Challenges of Corporate Governance conference organised by The Centre for Governance and Regulation in the School of Management. The conference brought together many leading lights of the academic and business worlds to discuss the state of corporate governance, as well as its transformation over the past decades and the future challenges.

A leading international academic journal, the Journal of Empirical Finance, will be devoting a special issue to the conference, which will provide wide international dissemination of the contributions and help to cement the University’s position as a leading research player in this field.

Bookmark with:

What is this?

We are one of the UK's leading universities with an international reputation for quality research and teaching. Our Mission is to deliver world class research and teaching, educating our graduates to become future leaders and innovators, and benefiting the wider population through our research, enterprise and influence. Our courses are innovative and interdisciplinary and we have an outstanding record of graduate employment.