Recent graduates of the Company Directors Course discuss how they have benefited from it and how it is assisting them strengthen governance of their organisations.
Meeting diverse needs
The Company Directors Course (CDC) is designed to ensure directors not only understand their roles and responsibilities, but also improve their contributions to board performance. Updated annually, the course provides current and relevant information and case references.
Ari Bergman GAICD, general counsel for Spotlight, did the CDC with the support of Spotlight company directors, who saw his attendance as part of improving the organisation’s corporate governance processes.
“As the general and regulatory obligations for organisations seem to be increasing, more is expected of senior officers and executives. In my role, I am getting more queries about what is the right thing to do in any given situation. I have been able to give plenty of benefit to the organisations I am working for based on the knowledge I gained from the course,” he says.
Like Bergman, Karen Masnata GAICD, a risk adviser for Deloitte, believes the CDC has enhanced her ability to advise boards.
“In terms of advice I would be providing to boards, it certainly is now a lot more tailored and relevant and includes information a board could take and more easily digest and help inform its decision-making process,” she says.
For the last 10 years Johnnie Walker FAICD wanted to do the CDC. When Walker, the chairman of Clubs Victoria Inc, finally enrolled last year he was so struck by the importance of what he was learning, he immediately started introducing changes to his board.
“Even while attending the course I was picking up things. I was instigating risk committees and getting them to function properly, getting finance and administration committees working well, so it was really fantastic,” he says.
Despite decades of business experience, Walker says the CDC enhanced his understanding of corporate governance and heightened his awareness of how to combat risk. Asked if the CDC enabled him to better fulfil his responsibilities, Walker is categorical. “Absolutely! I now know a lot about what I need to do and therefore can work at addressing those deficiencies if I perceive them. And, it’s very easy to do a bit of self-analysis in this situation once you have the theoretical knowledge of the course behind you,” he says.
Anthony Joy GAICD, managing director of the Striker Group, is another recent graduate who says the course had a profound effect on his directorships and in turn, on the two boards he sits on.
Concern that he was too “exposed” led Joy to the CDC. “I suppose there was a lot of talk in the press about directors’ responsibilities and directors getting sued for failing to meet their responsibilities. The only way I could ensure I was capable of meeting my responsibilities was to make sure I really understood what they were,” he says.
Joy says he came away from the CDC with a new awareness of his responsibilities and the risks associated with his decisions. This led him to examine and subsequently change his approach to board work.
“Certainly I have a much more structured approach to managing board work than I might formerly have had. Now it’s very much about trying to understand the processes we are going through and asking whether we have got all the information required to make the decisions we are looking at. We have certainly upped the ante in terms of putting pressure on the executives in the business to give us all the information we need to make the decisions we need.”
Joy says improved corporate governance is the result of his attendance at the CDC.
“Absolutely no question about it, a significant improvement in terms of governance for the organisation, and I think we all feel a lot more comfortable with the decisions we are making.”
Bruce Pirie GAICD, commercial director of Defence Materiel Organisation at the Department of Defence, says the key message he took away from the CDC was the need for the board to be concerned with governance, rather than management. “I have certainly instituted a lot better governance policies and practices in the workplace. As a strategic team, we are a lot more collegial now and we work better as a board group to determine the strategic outcomes and get less worried about the day-to-day running of the operations,” he says.
Clancy Michael GAICD, director of CBH Group, says that for him, the CDC provided verification and support of existing processes.
“Actually being able to benchmark your processes against what is recommended on the CDC gives you a pretty good background to work out what level you need to be at.”
Professor Anne Edwards AO FAICD, director of COTA South Australia, agrees that attending the CDC reinforces existing knowledge. Despite already being familiar with governance issues due to her work in the university sector, Edwards says she gained a great deal from the CDC.
“It gave me a wider perspective on all aspects of governance, as experienced by many people in different organisations. That comes from the course material, but also very significantly from the different interactions you have with all the different participants.”
From the perspective of the graduates themselves, it is clear that undertaking the CDC reaps many benefits. Leading beyond compliance to a better understanding of governance, the CDC delivers tools and knowledge to assist graduates through their directorships.
For more information on the Company Directors Course, click here.
Order of Merit awards in 2008
Congratulations to those who were awarded an Order of Merit in 2008:
COMPANY DIRECTORS COURSE
Darren Birbeck GAICD
Bradley Gannon GAICD
Ari Bergman GAICD
Alison Terry GAICD
Chris Grundy GAICD
Sharon McGowan GAICD
Karen Masnata GAICD
MASTERING THE BOARDROOM
Jonathan O’Dea FAICD
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