A First Seat at the Big Table
The PEAK Hong Kong|December 2016

Being asked to a company directorship may be flattering, and it may also seem like a ticket into the big league. But there’s a lot more to the role than people may realise.

Diana David

The list of attributes required of a good independent non-executive director (INED) is long, precise and sometimes contradictory – so much so that it can seem as though nobody could be a board member that fully fits the bill.

A good director needs to be supportive, thoughtful, mature, intelligent and steady, but also entrepreneurial, interesting, passionate, independent, curious and challenging. They need to have financial acumen, fluency in technological trends, real business experience, a strong moral compass and be a first class all-rounder with specific industry skills or market expertise.

It’s a tall order and one that comes with minimal compensation. Yet people continue to covet board seats, and the Hong Kong Exchange has now made it a requirement to have a third of all board seats filled by independent directors. You may have even asked yourself whether or not an independent board seat sounds like something that might be a good addition to your own professional portfolio.

Being on the board of a listed company, or even a private or pre-IPO company, is a serious job, one that involves challenging the executive directors who will always have more knowledge of and experience in the company. This means non-executives have to prepare thoroughly by visiting the business, reading board papers carefully and seeking other sources of information. There is no longer a chance for board members to get away with 'winging it' and they need to have the ability to develop the business, not just police it or protect its assets.

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