Sharon Warburton on boardrooms of the future

Tuesday, 14 January 2020


    Ahead of next month’s Australian Governance Summit 2020 we caught up with leading ASX director and opening speaker Sharon Warburton GAICD to hear her insights on what boards of the future will look like.

    “I’m very curious about how we’ll use data and [particularly] real-time data,” she says. “I’m also very curious about the role of AI, what that is and what that might mean for the way we work across all our businesses.”

    Warburton, who is Co-Deputy Chairman of Fortescue Metals Group and a director at Wesfarmers, foresees a boardroom that has access to real-time data 24/7 all year round. She’s excited about the impact this could have on the way boards work and their strategic thinking processes.

    She also believes board composition will continue to evolve. “I think our boards will become more globally focused, but also consist of people from more global backgrounds and that in itself will unlock a new level of boardroom dynamics.” Warburton says this will redefine how boards operate and work together. “I think that underlying goal of achieving diversity of thought will remain unchanged, but I’m very excited about how we will get there in the boardroom of the future.”  

    Sharon Warburton Boardroom of the future01:15

    Rising issues for boards

    When discussing the issues that are increasingly impacting directors, Warburton spoke of the growing number of stakeholders that boards are dealing with.

    “I’m often thinking about our social licence to operate and what that actually means for each of the businesses that I’m working with. Our social licence to operate is constantly changing. We seem to have an ever-growing list of stakeholders who are all looking for very different returns. The inter-relationship of those things, I think, is a big challenge.”

    The rise of activism and what that means for boards, and the ever-growing governance requirements are also high on the list of challenges facing directors. Directors, she says, must work out how to continually education themselves and stay up to date.

    On the topic of remuneration policies, Warburton highlights the need for increased simplicity. “They’re way too complex and we should remember there’s no one size fits all. Rem policies are unique to each individual organisation and where they’re at in their lifecycle.” She says policies need to be continually reviewed and should evolve as the strategy evolves over time.

    “Should non-financial and financial risk feature in those rem models? Absolutely, but it will depend on the organisation and its areas of focus at that point in time.”

    Hear more from Sharon Warburton and a stellar line-up of experienced directors and subject matter experts at next month’s Australian Governance Summit 2020 in Sydney on 2-3 March.

    More about Sharon Warburton

    Sharon Warburton is currently co-deputy chairman of Fortescue Metals Group and a director of Wesfarmers, Gold Road Resources, NEXTDC and Worley. She has also been a part time member of the Takeovers Panel since 2015 and is an Adjunct Professor of Curtin University’s Faculty of Business and Law.

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