31st January 2011

In many ways the UK is considered a beacon when it comes to Corporate Governance – principally as a result of the 2010 Corporate Governance Code – but is it any more than window dressing?

Too many organisations – private, public and third sector – pay lip service to this important aspect of running a Board and company. Usually it is “added in” to a minor sub committee to report on once a year; and yet corporate governance has the ability to enhance the prospects of any company.

It is all about driving an enterprise forward whilst at the same time exercising prudent control.This must be obvious to all directors? Not really and little is likely to change when directors are often chosen via a “closed shop”. Until we open our minds to the recruitment of directors and apply much more imaginative ways of selection, induction, development and appraisal then corporate governance is unlikely to change very much.

We have some building blocks in place – a sound Companies Act (2006), a patchy Corporate Governance Code (2010, a weak regulatory framework and some appalling laws which cut across the afore mentioned. How we arrange these blocks will dictate if we are heading for another spectacular collapse along the lines of RBS or Enron or taking a world beating role as the beacon of good governance.

No-one wants burdensome regulation but putting good governance at the top of a directors list of responsibilities will result in healthy businesses which allow the executive to drive forward from a firm foundation.

It would take little to transform corporate governance in the UK – and surely this would set us apart from other countries as a place for the reputable to do business? As a Chartered Director (there are still less than 1000 in the country) as a start EVERY listed company should have a CDir on the Board as a minimum within 12 months – at least this would show more than lip service to good governance.

To borrow from a leading expert in this field – Prof Bob Garratt – “A fish rots from the head”!

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