Reputational Risk Demands Expertise at Board Level

But when Cayhill Partners, a London-based headhunting firm, surveyed more than 100 corporate affairs directors recently to ask them how many non-executive directorships they had taken up, it turned out only one-fifth had done so, and these NED roles had been mainly pro bono, either in the arts or charity worlds, rather than in paid positions. Only three per cent of communications or corporate affairs directors hold a paid NED post. Many boards are shrinking, which is no bad thing. But when the music stops, there are fewer chairs left to sit on. And in the toss-up between selecting a “grown-up” executive with a background in finance or operations, or a corporate affairs schmoozer, the instinct of many nominations committees will be to lean towards the numbers person. As one communications director says in the Cayhill Partners report: “Many companies do not factor reputation management into their business strategy, and even if they do, they struggle to measure it. This is particularly true in businesses and industry sectors where the ‘brand v beans’ equation is more heavily skewed towards beans and the needs/wishes/direction of the bean counters.”

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