John Brogden explains how the Australian Institute of Company Directors is working to ensure its member offering remains at the forefront of governance excellence and leadership. 

    The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) has a diverse membership of more than 36,000 directors from all walks of life. Our members come from organisations as diverse as schools, football clubs, charities, government authorities and small businesses. Each of these directors plays an equally important role in ensuring that the organisations they govern have a positive impact on our economy and society. This is as true for our members who govern sporting bodies as it is for a chairman of an S&P/ASX 200 company or a charity which serves a local community.

    It is our goal to provide services and benefits that enable all our members to fulfil their roles successfully. To help us better achieve that goal, we are refocusing our business to reflect the needs of members in the four key sectors of our membership – listed companies, not-for-profits (NFPs), public sector and private companies.

    We will drill down into our business to find the existing content and services that can help directors in each sector and draw it together so that it is more readily accessible. The AICD has an abundance of information to help directors but it has not previously been apparent at first glance.

    We are also considering a new approach to our events and services to make sure the benefits you receive from your membership are maximised. Our Directing Growth Program and Business Owner Resource Centre – which are both aimed at private business owners – are examples of initiatives we have already undertaken in recognition of the specific needs of one group of members.

    Our NFP members have also benefited from our NFP Thought Leadership Program and the Not-for-Profit Resource Centre on our website which has a wealth of information for directors in this sector. Of course, many of our existing services are suited to all our members and will continue to be offered in their current form. In fact, feedback we have received from members indicates that directors from one sector learn a great deal from interacting with their peers from other types of organisations. This networking gives them the opportunity to learn how others deal with challenges common to all boards, giving them an insight into alternative solutions to issues they may encounter.

    The core tasks of any board are the same – including appointing a chief executive officer, ensuring a pipeline of talent and setting strategy – so it makes sense that something like our flagship Company Directors Course is suitable for directors across the board. This course is now in its 40th year and the profile of those who undertake it has changed significantly over time. Far more directors from both the NFP and public sectors attend this course but regardless of the change in participant profiles, it still continues to receive fantastic feedback.

    This partly reflects the fact that the law governing the responsibilities of directors has become far more complex over the past four decades and that the potential liability for directors who breach those laws applies across the board. 

    We recognise that our educational courses are a significant investment for individuals and as a result have an expanding scholarship program which, again, takes into account the needs of the different segments of our membership. Financial services company Perpetual, for example, has funded more than 1,300 scholarships for directors of charitable companies to complete our courses since 2011.

    These are just one of a range of scholarships that have been offered to directors in the NFP space and also to indigenous directors and directors in regional areas.

    We are confident that we will be available to build on all these initiatives and introduce many more that will ensure our members get great value from being part
    of the AICD. We will also advocate on behalf of our members operating across the different sectors so that governments, policy-makers and other stakeholders are aware of the issues that affect all directors. We want you to be assured that the AICD has your interests at heart, regardless of the size or nature of the organisations that you govern.

    Of course, as we continue to grow and diversify our member offering we may make mistakes. But we will identify what they are and work quickly to rectify them so that your member experience isn’t impacted. I’m committed to making sure the AICD is recognised as Australia’s leading governance organisation.

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