2012 Board practices report

Providing insight into the shape of things to come

This report issued by the U.S. Center for Corporate Governance and the Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals indicates the top attribute sought in new directors is industry experience, as board subject matter knowledge comes to the fore. In addition, more corporate board members are engaging directly with shareholders. Other shifts in board practices include an increased length and frequency of board meetings and more actively reviewed CEO succession policies.

Based on the responses of nearly 200 corporate secretaries, the report focuses on more than 15 board practice areas among public, private and nonprofit organizations. It explores topics such as risk oversight, board use of technology, corporate responsibility, shareholder engagement and board and committee structures.

“The report shows that board members are really working on enhancing their interactions with each other and with shareholders, which goes along with wider trends related to facility of communication. There’s no longer the sense that boards operate behind closed doors.” - Maureen Errity, director, Deloitte Center for Corporate Governance, Deloitte LLP.

Key trends

  1. CEO succession. CEO succession is reviewed by the full board at least once a year at well over half the companies responding (61 percent) and another 29 percent review it more than once a year. However, only 17 percent of companies said they disclose their succession plan policies or practices.
  2. Boards are meeting more often. More than 50 percent of all boards met eight or more times in the last full fiscal year; over half of the financial services companies reported meeting 10 or more times last year. Further, board meetings are also longer. Almost half (45 percent) of large- and mid-cap companies reported meetings of six or more hours (excluding committee meeting time) and 37 percent of small-cap companies reported the same.
  3. Social media. The report also examines the impact of social media on corporate policies and director behavior. Reports on social media were given to boards at about half of the large-cap companies in the last year and at about one third of small- and mid-cap companies.
  4. Separation of Chair/CEO role. The report shows slightly more than half of the respondents reported a split in the two positions, with 48 percent combining the position and 51 percent splitting them. This is reversed from 2011 results in which 51 percent combined the roles; the change appears to be driven primarily by mid-cap companies.

Other findings

  • Approximately one-third of small- and mid-cap companies reported meeting with up to 5 percent of their shareholders, while 44 percent of large-cap companies reported meeting with more than 20 percent of their shareholders.
  • The report also shows nearly half (47 percent) of all respondents stated that industry knowledge is the most important trait they look for in new board members – almost double most other desired skills. 
2012 Board practices report
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