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Transforming the director for a new world order

The expectation of a company's stakeholders to deliver results directly should drive a director's education and learning journey.

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Beyond delivering courses in a traditional classroom setting, professional development for directors and corporate leaders can take many forms - including online webinars, forum discussions, panel debates, industry surveys and social media networks, among others.

THE rising economic dominance of the East is fuelled mainly by Asia's strong consumer demand and its rapidly growing middle-income segment. At the centre of this nascent new world order sits the Singapore economy.

For investors looking to make long-term investment decisions, Singapore has long represented a stable environment. Practically, this has translated into a strong macroeconomic ecosystem that drives a corresponding micro-economic environment which, in turn, produces a vibrant community of global, regional and local companies.

The mission to perpetuate our island-state's brand position as a globally trusted financial centre is entrusted to several key players, chief among them, directors of company boards in Singapore.

CREATING A NEW GENERATION OF DIRECTORS

As Asia takes on a more substantial role on the global stage, Singapore needs to produce an even more sophisticated breed of future-ready directors who are capable and courageous enough to make high-impact decisions that will shape the future performance of their companies.

Given the rapid changes in the economic landscape, much of the board agenda will evolve around performance, value creation, digital technology and partnerships both within Singapore and across the world.

On the conformance side, corporate governance, risk management and regulatory issues will impact the compliance regime of companies seeking to expand across borders.

Of course, this presents an immediate conundrum.

While most board members seek to create value for their companies, at the same time, they would prefer to do so within a limited number of meetings each year. After all, board positions are not normally seen as full-time employment.

Directors, in general, either hold multiple board appointments, or are hired as executive officers in their professional capacity. In some cases, they are retired, if not semi-retired, and tapped for their deep industry experience.

The intersection of these roles is clearly knowledge - specifically, current, high quality knowledge that can be applied quickly and efficiently. While experience and professional skillsets are highly valued, there is also the consideration that best practices and industry developments are constantly being updated.

Which is all the more reason why professional interactions, accessible resources, industry benchmarks and networking events can help shape a director's professional development.

Meaningful and foresighted literature and information-delivery nodes can also go a long way to boosting the skillsets of corporate boards.

The idea is a simple one: build up a community of directors that is ready to take on a new world order centred in Asia, by empowering them with new knowledge.

LEADING THE WAY

As a company's apex decision-making body, the board oversees management in developing and implementing strategies that create value for all stakeholders, while ensuring conformance to the rules and regulations of the jurisdictions in which the company operates.

The expectation of a company's stakeholders to deliver results directly drives a director's education and specific learning journey. It is for this reason that professional associations provide thought leadership, research and advocacy, industry benchmarking and professional training.

Working closely with the authorities, regulators and a vast network of members and professionals, professional associations such as the Singapore Institute of Directors (SID) can identify (and refine) future-centric ways to uphold and enhance better standards of corporate governance and ethical conduct.

This remit, for example in the context of professional development at SID, is operationalised into a comprehensive curriculum that covers the entire spectrum of a director's developmental needs.

Equally important to what knowledge and skillsets are promoted and developed, both in terms of content and discussions, is how this information is delivered.

Beyond delivering courses in a traditional classroom setting, professional development for directors and corporate leaders can take many forms - including online webinars, forum discussions, panel debates, industry surveys and social media networks, among others.

LEARNING FLEXIBILITY

Leveraging technology, recorded sessions, authored content and webinars, for instance, give directors a learning flexibility that can be tailored to their schedules in a cost-effective way. All it takes is an Internet connection.

To provide a greater focus on corporate governance and directorship issues of the day, it is inevitable that current, real-life cases in the marketplace are highlighted. And because many of these cases focus on performance within governance, timely and appropriate disclosures, and the role of governance in entrepreneurship, diversification and innovation, it is important to keep directors apprised of the latest thinking and learning.

Reinforcing the focus on these themes in the immediate term will have a positive long-term effect on directors in two ways:

  • stronger and more effective board level decisions as companies scale up and evolve their business models; which invariably leads to,
  • steadier and deeper stakeholder engagement.

As expectations of more sophisticated stakeholders in this ever-changing market increase, an ever-increasing compliance regime adds to the stress points for directors.

Given the thriving region and Singapore's brand advantage in its midst, it is no surprise that local boards are expected to continue to drive our companies towards higher levels of performance.

  • The writer is a council member and chairman of the professional development committee at the Singapore Institute of Directors.