Beware boardroom blame game

All non-executive directors are created equal — unless they happen to work in financial services. That means “standard” Neds can relax, as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) considers that only chairmen, senior independent directors and Neds who chair certain committees will fall within the scope of its new senior management regime, which seeks to hold company bosses to account.

The proposals would mean that only “senior” Neds and executives at companies regulated by the FCA or the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) would run the risk of being held criminally liable for their company’s actions. Other Neds will not be presumed responsible if, for instance, their bank collapses.

Under the regime, Neds on these boards will also need to be approved by the regulator before taking a senior role, which in financial services includes chairing the risk, audit, remuneration or nomination committee.

Read more in The Sunday Times

Behind every good boss is a great assistant

A good executive assistant can help his or her boss get ahead. A great one might even follow in the boss’s footsteps one day. As things stand, though, not enough senior executives give much thought to their assistants’ career development, according to the founder of the Global PA Association.

“These people need to be tech savvy and social media aware,” said Rosemary Parr, who was Sir Christopher Bland’s executive assistant during his time as chairman of BT. “They have to be able to set up the boss’s laptop, phone and other communication tools. They have to be able to read and interpret financial statements, profit and loss accounts, share price data and information about corporate structures. They have to be able to say the right thing about the company at the right time. And they need regular development opportunities.

“Sir Christopher said to me that once I had got to the top as his PA, I did not need any more development. He was being a devil’s advocate but often that is what chief executives are thinking. They need to understand that the more you help people to develop, the better they will do their job for you.”

Read more in The Sunday Times

Beware weak links in the chain

When a company’s suppliers get it right, they provide good value and innovation to go with the product or service. When they get it wrong, however, they can become a source of financial and reputational damage — or even a back door for cyber criminals.

It is risk to which few boards seem to be alert, according to David Archer, a partner at Socia, the leadership organisation. “In our experience, executive directors are usually focused internally on ensuring they hit their own targets and, while some non- executive directors are trying to look at the whole picture, it is difficult for them to really see into the supply chain.”

But with companies becoming more reliant on third parties to deliver products and services, acquiring that overview is a strategic imperative.

Read more in The Sunday Times

Freelance journalist and writer