The last farewell

Monday, 01 December 2014

John H C Colvin  photo
John H C Colvin

    In his final address to readers, John H C Colvin reflects on his six-plus year tenure at the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

    In my final report before I hand over to incoming CEO John Brogden in January, I am delighted to announce that we will be opening a member lounge in Perth in the New Year. The creation of another fantastic space for members and their guests to connect is one final milestone in what has been for me, a remarkable and very happy journey.

    In mid-2008, I commenced discussions about the vacant role of CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

    The privilege of being selected to lead this institute back then was looking good until my start date of September 2008, when the world was first rocked by the global financial crisis following the collapse of US investment bank, Lehman Brothers. 

    With the beauty of hindsight, I look back now on my first year as a great experience and a steep learning curve. 

    I remember the experience of working in a partnership model at a law firm and thinking about how and where the corporate model at Company Directors was different.

    The distinction and familiarities are worthy of future reflection at another time.

    In the early days, lifting the profile, connecting with the leading directors and changing the culture were important issues initially. Other priorities emerged over the following years.

    The main cultural theme initially at Company Directors was “have a go”. This principle was borrowed from my daughter’s kindergarten teacher, who used to tell her students: “every day is have-a-go day”. 

    I am extremely grateful to our chairmen for their support during my tenure. It is very important that the relationship between the chairmen and the CEO is a good one. John Story, Rick Lee, James Strong and Michael Smith have all been excellent chairs and generously provided a significant amount of wise counsel. 

    I also thank all the board members and committee members who have served during my tenure for their assistance, challenging questions, support and friendship.

    Key standouts
    It would be impossible for me to mention all of the initiatives during my time at Company Directors, but there are some highlights.

    The 50 per cent increase in our membership has seen us become the largest institute for directors globally. 

    Our strong commitment to gender diversity has been recognised for its impact and contribution to driving the increase in representation of women on boards and, more generally, its positive influence on the practice of director selection.

    I am also delighted that you, along with all of our members are now part of an international coalition advocating for excellence in governance through the Global Network of Director Institutes.

    Working with the director community and our employees to support their learning, currency and careers has been an inspiring job. Having the opportunity to lead a sizeable business, while representing company directors before stakeholders such as parliamentarians, the Productivity Commission and media has been an added bonus. 

    I hope this role played to my education and experience in law, economics, and business and an interest in politics. Gaining traction on many issues, such as director liability reform and deregulation, has been exciting and satisfying.

    I am also very proud that collectively our teams have made our education programs, and policy and advocacy efforts, world leading.  Our international reach and our capacity to influence boards and corporates has also been greatly extended through the formation of new business units in those areas.

    I hope our work on our internal culture will also continue to translate into enhanced member service over both the short and long term.

    I believe we must always honour our past otherwise we limit our future. This is why we should also recognise our predecessors: the boards, staff, committees and members who built and maintained the institute prior to my arrival. 

    Much of our success today also rests upon the enormous talent within the membership. We are indebted to those who give so generously of their knowledge and time through their contribution to our board, councils, committees and many other activities.

    There are many individuals who I also thank for sharing their ideas and insights with me.

    Some say it is lonely at the top, but I have always felt supported in pursuing the aims of Company Directors, surrounded by so many talented people offering great support, encouragement and guidance.

    The love and support from my family has been fundamental and instrumental in taking on this job and I thank Robyn, Emily and Alistair very much.

    Thank you all once again. Your support has meant a lot to me, and Company Directors is all the stronger today for your loyalty.  I have no doubt the institute will reach new heights under John Brogden’s leadership.

    Best wishes for the holiday season and I hope you have a healthy and prosperous 2015. Farewell.

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