C-Who?

March 21st, 2013 | By

Late last year NACD released a white paper with McGladrey, Bridging Effectiveness Gaps: A Candid Look at Board Practices, which quickly became one of NACD’s most downloaded resources of 2012 and continues to be the most downloaded in 2013. The paper, based on four gatherings of directors and executives, notes that because directorship is a part-time role, the board must inherently rely on management for information. This can lead to a disconnect in communication, as the information the board needs is not necessarily the information management provides.

In an effort to accurately reflect the thinking of those “on the front lines,” boards often hear from voices outside of the typical four-officer lineup (CEO, CFO, COO, and general counsel). Nearly unheard of a decade ago, the chief risk officer (CRO) provides an example of a non-traditional C-suite officer uniquely positioned to fill an information gap. According to 2012-2013 NACD Governance Surveys, in public companies without a CRO, 64 percent of directors state that the level of information they receive on risk management is good or excellent. On the other hand, among the 28 percent of companies with a CRO, this level of satisfaction among directors increases by more than one-third to 87 percent. The difference is even clearer among private companies–48 percent of directors at companies without a CRO report high levels of satisfaction with received risk management information, and this increases by more than half to 76 percent of directors reporting similar high satisfaction levels at companies with a CRO.

These new and influential voices in the boardroom provide directors with the knowledge and experiences of those working day-to-day in various operational fields. Directors can draw on these diverse sources to ensure they have the breadth and depth of information needed for effective oversight. This solution, however, may present another issue; directors, while comfortable interacting with the typical four-officer lineup, may not have the same level of experience with non-traditional C-suite officers. In the same vein, these officers may not be as adept at providing the board with precise and relevant information.

In our latest white paper, C-Suite Expectations: Understanding C-Suite Roles Beyond the Core, NACD addresses this disconnect by presenting directors with tools they can use to interact with non-traditional members of the C-suite. The eight positions highlighted in the report are:

  1. chief audit officer;
  2. chief corporate responsibility officer;
  3. chief ethics officer;
  4. chief human resources officer;
  5. chief information officer;
  6. chief investor relations officer;
  7. chief marketing officer; and
  8. chief risk officer.

The report includes position descriptions for, information the board can expect to receive in reports from, and deeper questions directors can ask of, these C-suite officers. A complimentary copy of this white paper is available to all NACD members, and is available to non-members for $15.

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