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Busy directors have better attendance records at board meetings: study

A COMPREHENSIVE study of the 3,670 directors on the boards of 717 listed firms here as at the end of 2013 has thrown up a few interesting findings on directors' commitment, independence, pay and diversity.

One finding, for example, is that eight in 10 directors (82 per cent) hold only one board seat. The highest number of board seats held by an individual is 10 - down from 12 a few years ago.

And those with more directorships do not skip board meetings more because of their heavier commitments; in fact, they tend to have better attendance at board meetings. They are also better educated and tend to hold directorships in the finance sector.

Adrian Chan, the first vice-chairman of the Singapore Institute of Directors (SID) said that the issue of multiple directorships is thus not as major a problem as perceived.

The study, the Singapore Directorship Report 2014, was carried out by SID and the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (Isca).

Directors influence corporate strategy and can be a check-and-balance on the powers of management. While some argue that sitting on multiple boards enables the best practices from one to be brought over to another, others say busy directors may not have the time or the ability to contribute.

Gender diversity on Singapore boards - or the lack thereof - was also discussed at a presentation on the findings on Tuesday.

A member of the audience suggested running more seminars at which women directors are invited to share their experience, and doing further studies on the proportion of married and single women directors.

She added: "It is not easy for women to be sitting on the board with 10 men. It's in the psychology of men to be domineering, controlling."

Richard Teng, the chief regulatory officer of the Singapore Exchange, said that in informal conversations, women ask him not to impose a minimum quota of women members on boards. "They say... it takes away everything that they have achieved on their own merit," he said.