Finding SID

SID was a well-known figure in 80’s Britain, playing an elusive role in the advertising campaign to privatise British Gas.

A very different SID now also makes an important contribution to UK Corporate Governance. Introduced in 2003 by the Higgs Review, the Senior Independent Director (SID) is now a feature of the majority of UK Boardrooms. Increasingly Fidelio also sees a number of international Boards adopting the role or alternatively strengthening the Vice or Deputy Chair role.

Fidelio has consistently flagged the importance of the Chair role which is pivotal for Board effectiveness. In our Board Evaluation and Search assignments we see that the Chair role has evolved significantly since the Financial Crisis and very much come into its own, clearly distinct from the role of the Chief Executive. We see much greater Chair accountability – “this is where the buck stops.”  Equally, as stakeholder complexity and ESG grows, so do the demands on the Chair. (See forthcoming Fidelio webinar, ‘The Chair as Chief Reputation Officer’.)

The challenges facing the Chair are considerable and an experienced Chair will understand the benefit of an effective SID. In good times the role of the SID is not too visible but rather will contribute in a low-key manner to the better running of the Board. In tough times the SID has a vital role to play and for this very reason shareholders and stakeholders are right to take comfort when a good SID appointment is made. Integrity, good judgment and a high degree of emotional intelligence are the ingredients of success for this role.

Fidelio sees the role of the SID coming into sharper focus through both our Evaluation and Search assignments. Therefore we decided to include a module in Fidelio’s recent “A Seat at the Table” Board Learning Programme. Participants and Alumni explored with Tony Cocker, Chair of Infinis, Senior Independent Director of SSE plc, and former Chair of Affinity Water, the role of the SID and its importance for the Board.

In this Overture we share some of the insights arising from that module, including how the role of SID interacts with the Chair. Finding SID is clearly as important for UK governance today as it was in the 1980s!

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Fidelio brings deep understanding of the role of the Chair and the Senior Independent Director. To support your Board through Search, Evaluation and Development, please contact Gillian Karran-Cumberlege at gkarrancumberlege@fideliopartners.com.

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