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Corporate governance reaches far and wide

07 December 2017 by Peter Swabey

Corporate governance reaches far and wide - Read more

Topical governance issues can apply between sectors

By the time that you read this article, we will be in the consultation period for amendments to the UK Corporate Governance Code.

The consultation is unpublished at the time of writing [it has now been released] and I am trying to convince our editor that it was entirely owing to my waiting for publication that this column has been submitted after the deadline. Unfortunately, my track record is against me here.

The consultation is probably the most significant development in the governance world this year and its ramifications will be with us for many years hence.

Early indications are that, although there will be some familiar areas, the new code will be a different beast to its predecessor, with greater focus on principles, while some of the more detailed provisions have been moved to guidance.

As I said last month, it will affect the daily lives of many of our members working in the corporate sector and so it is vital that our response is considered and comprehensive. Please read the consultation document and let us know your views.

I also mentioned last month that we have been asked to serve on a coalition being established by the FRC to develop a set of corporate governance principles for large private companies, in response to a request from the government following the green paper.

It would be helpful if some of you working in larger private companies are willing to act as a sounding board for proposals as they develop.

“The code will affect the daily lives of many of our members working in the corporate sector and so it is vital that our response is considered and comprehensive”

Another development that will affect all our working lives is the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). I hope that you have all had a chance to look at our guidance note, which was launched at the Data Governance Conference on 3 November.

I thought that this was a thought-provoking conference, with a lot of valuable advice from fellow practitioners on how to implement the new regulation.

The guidance note can be downloaded from our website and I recommend it to you – my thanks to Liz Bradley, ourpolicy manager, who led the drafting, and to Miriam Fine and the team at Baker McKenzie and the other members of the working group who assisted with this project.

In the non-corporate world, we ran a successful sports governance conference on 24 November, with three Olympians present, two of them speaking.

Annamarie Phelps, chair of British Rowing, talked about issues that resonate across a number of sectors: the implementation of duty of care recommendations; that policies and frameworks are not enough on their own; the importance of culture (which was a bit of a theme of the day); and the need to avoid the creation of additional agencies which will duplicate existing ones. It was a fascinating day.

I often say that topical governance issues are cross-sectoral and this was further reinforced at an event with Major General Nicholas Welch, assistant chief of the general staff, who was talking about ‘The military view of governance’.

I was expecting something along the lines of the Duke of Wellington’s comment, after his first cabinet meeting as prime minister, that it was ‘an extraordinary affair. I gave them their orders and they wanted to stay and discuss them’ – a view with which some chairmen and CEOs might have sympathy.

However, the reality is different, with some of the same governance challenges that affect other organisations, such as the need to retain a licence to operate; the need for speed of reaction to unpredictable events; a focus on training and the quality of information; and a real-life example of a worker on the board, the Army Sergeant Major, who has a seat on the Army Board. The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force have similar arrangements.

I would also like to congratulate all those who won awards at the dinner on 28 November and to all those shortlisted.

It was a fantastic evening, celebrating the best in reporting – which given this month’s silver anniversary of the Cadbury Report is particularly apt – alongside the leading practitioners of our profession. Highlights and photos from the night can be found here.

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to you all. As always, I would be happy to receive any feedback or suggestions as to what the policy team can do or from volunteers to help us with the code for private companies at policy@icsa.org.uk

Peter Swabey FCIS is policy and research director at ICSA: The Governance Institute

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