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Nov 18, 2022

Governance professionals guide on preparing for 2023: Part 1

Industry experts at Corporate Secretary event discuss topics ranging from the proxy season to director training

Governance professionals met at the Corporate Secretary Forum in New York last week to share their expertise on issues affecting the community as 2023 looms.

One item under discussion was the increased pressure on companies to make statements about political issues and whether and when to do so. Timothy Ring, senior vice president and corporate secretary with MetLife, said it is important to have a robust and appropriate process in place that will help respond to such pressure regardless of the issue at hand. This process should include people who are forward-facing with employees, customers and investors, he advised.

Fellow panelist Alan Tse, global chief legal officer and corporate secretary with Jones Lang LaSalle, agreed with the idea of having a process but noted that making decisions on whether to speak out would not always be easy in practice. Although it has been straightforward to take a public stance on issues such as racial equity and the war in Ukraine, other issues may be more complex, and ‘everyone would like [companies] to take their stance,’ Tse said.

On another panel at the forum looking at director skills and training, speakers noted the importance of board members having ‘soft skills’.

‘You need people who are adaptive,’ said Prabha Sipi Bhandari, senior vice president, deputy general counsel and corporate secretary at American International Group. This is because although the board may understand the risks the company faces at present, it doesn’t know what risks may arise, she noted. Alongside being adaptive, soft skills that are useful in directors include being collaborative, she added.

Fellow panelist Matthew Geekie, senior vice president, secretary and general counsel at Graybar, agreed, commenting that having the right chemistry is key for a board to function properly.

Bhandari also emphasized the importance of diversity on boards, including in terms of skills. She cautioned, however, that while cyber-security is a risk all companies need to take seriously, having a cyber-security expert on the board poses the danger that other directors will simply follow that person’s lead. 

We will present more insights from the forum on Monday


Ben Maiden

Ben Maiden is the editor-at-large of Governance Intelligence, an IR Media publication, having joined the company in December 2016. He is based in New York. Ben was previously managing editor of Compliance Reporter, covering regulatory and compliance...