March 1, 2017 / Table Talk

Fidelio Board Breakfast – “Board Effectiveness in the Digital Age”

Fidelio’s focus is on building Boards and leadership teams fit for the future, primarily through our Board and Executive Search activities. Our approach to Search is distinctive and forward-looking, equipping Boards and leadership teams with the skills they will need to navigate enormous change.

This clearly includes handling digital complexity and challenge. One of the most pressing issues facing Boards is technological change, and ensuring the Board possesses the skills and knowledge to safeguard the future of the business in the digital age.

As such, Fidelio was delighted to welcome Dr Stephen Page, Non-Executive Director BSI Group and the National Crime Agency; former Global Head of Digital/IT Strategy and Transformation at Accenture to speak at our Board breakfastStephen is a leading practitioner in digital-age boardroom issues; he has managed complex risks, and helped build key national and international capability for intelligence and security.

With the UK Government announcing its new digital strategy, and the New York Department for Financial Services introducing its new regulation, requiring Executives to formally certify their cyber-readiness, Fidelio’s Board breakfast couldn’t be more topical. The digital age clearly brings significant challenges to Boards, including the oversight of and responsibility for:

  • Protecting the business against cyber-risk
  • Preparing the business for digital disruption
  • Addressing the constraints of legacy IT
  • Seizing opportunities of harnessing ‘big data’

In Fidelio’s customary style, we asked Stephen to address three topics over breakfast:

  • Which “digital age” questions belong in the boardroom (and which do not)?
  • What does Board effectiveness look like in this context?
  • Do corporates need specific digital and cyber expertise on the Board; what does that look like and what is the relationship with the Executive in this regard?

 At our breakfast we were joined by Chairs, Non-Executive and Executive Directors of leading quoted companies from a range of sectors including financial services, media, retail and engineering.

Key Points

Fidelio recognises why many Boards struggle with cyber risk and digital opportunity. The pace of change is astounding and it is requiring business leaders to think about business, corporate structures and risk in radically different ways.

Over breakfast the key points to emerge were:

  • Don’t treat cyber, digital and legacy IT as separate considerations. They are interconnected, and businesses that recognise this will be able to see the issues more clearly
  • Digital is re-shaping business. Boards must be ready for questions about the company data structure, the impact on the business model, digital strategy and the balance between risk and innovation
  • Furthermore, the whole Board needs to own the issue, and be able to communicate the governance in place around cyber and digital
  • In order to understand these issues, and communicate confidently to shareholders and the regulators, Boards need new skills. While the simplest path to this is introducing a Non-Executive Director with a background in digital, such a candidate must also be able to contribute fully on other business issues. Each new Board appointment should move the Board towards greater digital awareness

The Non-Executive profiles required to guide companies through cyber risk and digital opportunity look very different from more traditional Board peers. Some of these skills can be learned but most Boards will also need existing skills to be supplemented by Directors who combine business and technological acumen and who can view the digital risk, challenges and opportunities facing every business from a fresh perspective. Fidelio focuses on building the Boards and leadership teams that will secure the future of the company. That future depends on a firm grasp of digital opportunity and very real cyber risk.

For more information, or to receive the full summary, please call Emily Baker on 0207 759 2200.

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