Corporate Governance Business Leaders Underline the Role of SOEs for Improving Board Efficiency and Performance at the Hawkamah Corporate Governance Conference

The Hawkamah Corporate Governance Conference

The event highlighted key strategies and best practices for exercising leadership, a well-structured evaluation, competent board committees and training programmes that match the needs of each board

The Hawkamah Corporate Governance Conference

Dubai, United Arab Emirates: ME NewsWire: The role of SOEs in improving board efficiency and performance was the key topic of discussion on the second day of the Hawkamah Corporate Governance Conference, held in cooperation with the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), that took place at the Armani hotel in Dubai lately. Held in cooperation with Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the event highlighted key strategies and best practices for exercising leadership, a well-structured evaluation, competent board committees and training programmes that match the needs of each board.

Organised for corporate governance professionals, the event facilitated a round-table discussion and interviews with the experts to examine what state-owned enterprises (SOEs) can do to ensure board efficiency in their own business relationships and how they can be held accountable for their actions.

Roundtable of Chairmen, CEOs and Experts on Enhancing Board Efficiency: Board Composition, Organisation of Committees, Training and Induction Programmes

Featuring distinguished speakers such as Mr. Henda Ingles, Chairman/CEO, Instituto de Apoio ao Sector Empresarial Publico (ISEP), Angola, Africa, Mr. Dato’ Abdul Aziz Abu Bakar, Executive Director, Malaysian Directors Academy (MINDA), Malaysia and Mr. Michael Webb, Barrister and Independent Director, New Zealand, the roundtable discussion highlighted the importance of the board composition, organisation of committees and training and induction programmes.

The discussion accentuated that professionals with executive powers should not occupy SOE boards. It focused on including state representatives and other professionals to be nominated based on qualifications, experience and skills. In addition, diversity preferences which add value to the board were highly recommended. The discussion also emphasised that restricting board members to nationals should be limited as that can act as a barrier to attracting the right talent.

In addition, it was recommended that specialised committees should be formed that can contribute to the efficiency of the board. These committees should be made up of independent and technically literate board members that add value to the team. Furthermore, the discussion revolved around the implementation of training and induction programmes which serve as a medium to improve the effectiveness of board members. Training should be encouraged and supported as an on-going professional norm, rather than a once-in-a-while practice.

Experts also discussed the importance of assessing long-term risks to evaluate how the board can manage its goals effectively. The discussion also highlighted the importance of having specialised committees to monitor the board and meet the expectations of the millennials. Setting key performance indicators (KPIs), incorporating performance contracts and implementing reforms were some of the practices highlighted to bring about a positive transformation of the board.

Interviewing Experts: Incentivising the Board: Remuneration, Evaluation, Incentives and Performance

Dr. Ashraf Gamal El Din, CEO, Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance, UAE, MENA, interviewed Mr. Hans Christiansen, Senior Economist, Corporate Affairs Division, OECD, Mr. Stephen Davis, Associate director and Senior Fellow, Harvard Law School Programs on Corporate Governance and Institutional Investors, US, Mr. Said Kambi, Chairman of the African Corporate Governance Network (ACGN) and CEO of the Institute of Directors in Tanzania, Africa, Mr. Renaud Van Goethem, External Advisor, GUBERNA  and Mr. Shepherd Chimutanda, Managing Partner, STC International, Zimbabwe, Africa, to find out how remuneration schemes for SOE boards foster the long term interest of the company and attract qualified professionals.

The discussion focused on ways to stabilise remuneration to reflect the market conditions as well as attract and retain qualified professionals. In addition, the session highlighted the importance of evaluation which focused on performance of the board as an entity rather than ‘box-ticking’ exercises. Use of external facilitators to structure the discussion of board performance was one of the best practices highlighted in the discussion. The discussion also emphasised the importance of social media to drive performance of the board. As a tactical tool, social media has an important role to play not only to promote the entity, but also to tackle crisis situations.

This session also highlighted the importance of benchmarking compensation for board members. Experts suggested using regular up-to-date research to provide the board a fair compensation. In addition, a fundamental distinction between a public-service and commercial entity should be outlined as each has a different role to play which determines the compensation offered. Explanation processes and key insights were some of the important elements suggested for deciding the compensation and remuneration.

Concluding Remarks and Way Forward

The conference concluded with closing remarks from Mr. Peter Montagnon, Member of the Board, Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance and Mr. Lars Erik Fredriksson, Chair, OECD Working Party on State Ownership and Privatisation Practices, Sweden.

“It’s been a great pleasure to have you all here. The conference has been a positive tool to professionalise and drive the effectiveness of the board. Clarity of purpose and conclusion have been well highlighted in addition to succession planning and transparency. While the forum served as a great learning experience for all gathered here, I am sure going forward we can also focus on role of the board in SOE with mixed enterprises. I take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to all of you for making this conference an enriching and rewarding experience,” said Mr. Peter Montagnon.

Certificates of Directorship were given to graduates of Hawkamah’s Director Development Program including Dr. Nadia Qassim Bastaki, Vice President of Medical Services and CSR Strategy of Etihad Aviation, Naila Al Moosawi, Director of Human Resources, Eastern Gulf and Director L&D – GCC at Lafarge Holcim, Ahmed Abdulla Marafi, Consultant at Kuwait Capital Markets Authority (CMA). The sponsors of the program – Ministry of Finance, Korea, Diligent, Protiviti, DP World, Emirates ID, Bank of Sharjah and Event Pad, were also recognised. Media partners Mediaquest and Motivate Publishing were also acknowledged for their cooperation at the event.

Subsequent to the conference, an OECD facilitated workshop on corporate governance of state-owned enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa was organised. The workshop facilitated knowledge sharing and the discussion of good practices aimed to support on-going efforts of the government in the MENA region.  

Facilitating concrete discussions, exploring key insights on specific governance challenges affecting SOE boards and shedding light on some of the acclaimed best practices, the two-day Hawkamah Corporate Governance Conference served as a treasure trove of ideas and  thoughts for professionalising boards of state-owned enterprises.

The Annual Hawkamah Corporate Governance Conference comprised of varied round table and panel discussions which examined, among others, SOE reform experiences, Governance, Competitiveness & Innovation, the role of the state versus the role of the SOE board and enhancing board efficiency.