2011 NACD Board Leadership Conference Opening Keynote and Plenary

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The 2011 NACD Board Leadership Conference kicked off with a resounding message: Governance is worldwide.

According to NACD President and CEO Ken Daly, “Markets, consumers, and the economy are global in nature. The boardroom is no exception.”

In her address to conference attendees, NACD Chairman Barbara Hackman Franklin emphasized the international representation at this year’s conference. This is NACD’s largest conference to date, with nearly 800 directors in attendance representing 1400 corporate boards and 16 countries.

Citing “too high” unemployment numbers, depressed business and consumer confidence, slowed economic growth, and the current regulatory
environment, Franklin issued a cautionary message to corporate directors: “Wisdom, good judgment and integrity are  needed more than ever today.” Despite the need to be “smarter and more vigilant,” she noted that directors are ready to meet the challenge.

Franklin closed her panel by issuing three areas of focus for corporate directors: executive compensation, diversity in the boardroom, and the new technologies sweeping across the world.

This focus on new technologies carried to this evening’s plenary on global governance, “Adapting to Changes at Home and Abroad.”  Moderated by Michele Hooper, director of PPG Industries, Inc., UnitedHealth Group, AstraZeneca PLC, and NACD, the panel included:

  • Sir Peter Bonfield: Chair, NXP Semiconductors; Director, Sony Corporation; L.M. Ericsson; TSMC; and Mentor Graphics Corporation Inc.
  • The Honorable Michael Oxley: Former U.S. Congressman and Chairman, House Financial Services Committee
  • Ambassador Rozanne L. Ridgway: Former Director, Boeing; 3M; Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European & Canadian Affairs

Hooper opened the panel by highlighting the increasing interconnectedness of the marketplace fostered by 24/7 communications and the economic challenges ricocheting around the world. The panel discussed the many tests multinational boards face, from tax burdens and job creation, to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Ambassador Ridgway noted that currently, “Billions of dollars are stored overseas that can’t be brought home without enormous
penalties.” However, it is difficult to create a situation in which taxes can be repatriated and reinvested in job growth. Sir Bonfield agreed with Ridgway, commenting that in 2008 and 2009, most companies thought that by 2011 growth would have rebounded. Today, corporate boards are facing a different reality. How can job creation exist with the current slow growth?

The panel discussed how corporate boards can meet the challenges currently presented by FCPA and expanding into emerging markets that
exhibit growth but present high risk. According to Ambassador Ridgway, diversity of both gender and international perspective is crucial in the
boardroom. Today, directors that are “aware of what is going on in the world” are key assets to multinational corporations.

The panel also touched on the threats of cyberterrorism and the need for cyber-security. Sir Bonfield, who serves as a director of Sony, mentioned Sony’s recent experience with a cyber hacker and stressed the need for the board to put cybersecurity issues on the board agenda at least once a year. Ambassador Ridgeway said that the issue of cybersecurity is all part of an expanding risk assessment boards are going to have to undertake.

Throughout the Board Leadership Conference, NACD staff will be providing updates to the key sessions through this blog and Twitter.

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