Prism Cosec, a member of the Equiniti Group since 2012, are leaders in this area. They’ve been supporting companies on matters of corporate governance since their advent in 2002. Now, with the establishment of Prism Boardroom, an individual suite of services dedicated to advancing the effectiveness of boards, and their directors, our clients can be sure of experienced support.
Prism Boardroom consists of a ‘bench’ of former company secretaries whose collective experience exceeds 200 years, and who are able to respond flexibly to client needs in meaningful and valuable ways. “Prism has been delivering these services on request for years so we are not new to this field, but excitingly we have now boosted our resources so that we can provide them more proactively. And the people we’re able to field are exceptionally well versed in boardroom processes,” says Prism Cosec’s Associate Director, Marie Gracie. “They have been on the receiving end of board evaluations, they have been running director induction programmes, heading up PLC secretariats and managing board relationships for years.”
The approach offered through Prism Boardroom doesn’t fit an existing mould. It consists of three streams, each tailored to suit the needs of clients and constituting a wide breadth of services.
“In the case of board evaluation, we think many providers have a rather formulaic approach,” says Marie. “They take their book off the shelf and deliver the process they believe in.” Prism Boardroom, however, invests itself more thoroughly in a process now integral to PLC boards. They provide clients with a “toolkit” of services from which they can choose, which might include, for example, board questionnaires, one-to-one interviews, psychometric testing, boardroom observation and investor engagement.
The UK Corporate Governance code requires that the FTSE350 companies evaluate their boards every three years. Companies should recognise that we are past the time when this is a box-ticking exercise, and actually look at what they’re spending their money on.
The Chairman should set the scope of the evaluation focussing on the strategic objectives of the business and the current and future needs of the board. Then the evaluator, with ‘a fresh pair of eyes’ can really start to add value, especially if that pair of eyes is familiar with how boards and board relationships work, and isn’t afraid to report back any problems, and suggest how they might be resolved” says Marie.
As well as easing the strain on the Company Secretary by providing on-going training and updates for boards on, for example, corporate governance issues, Prism Boardroom is committed to providing a new take on another Code requirement, and one for which the UK sets a high bar: the induction process. “We don’t lecture on this." Marie continues:
We work with company secretaries to gather all of the documentation relevant to directors – constitutional documents, terms of reference, accounts and policies – and draw out the relevant regulation and legislation as we talk directors through each document.
For example, we cover whistleblowing legislation and the role of the audit committee in relation to it when we look at how the company’s own whistleblowing policy works in practise. The approach is much more alive, relevant, and practical.” It’s a more time-consuming approach than just detailing the legal position, yet one with considerably more value to the client. Prism can also help clients take a fresh look at its overall approach to induction, and how relevant and effective it is for each individual director.
Prism Boardroom’s mentoring process can be provided to anyone in a company secretarial role but can be especially helpful to those newly promoted to the role of company secretary, or who have added the role to their existing duties following a listing.
“If you’re the secretary of a company then one of your key roles is supporting effective board relationships – heading off problems at an early stage and telling the Chairman and CEO how things really are. This may not be a natural role if you have come from being Finance Director or GC, and it is on top of quite comprehensive additional governance and regulatory duties. Our mentoring process is designed to effectively hold the hands of company secretaries through (typically) their first year in the role, giving them confidence to find their voice in this respect, whilst also taking them through the practicalities of the annual cycle,” says Marie.
The right chemistry is essential, as the mentoring relationship is based on trust and confidence – so we work very hard to match each mentoring client with the right mentor from our very experienced ‘bench’ of company secretaries.
“We’re not strangers to the boardroom,” comments Marie. “Our working lives have been spent inside them striving to improve board effectiveness. For years we’ve been on the receiving end of everything that Prism Boardroom is now able to proactively offer its clients,” she adds. “We think it makes us uniquely experienced to deliver these products in a practical, relevant and genuinely value-adding way.”
If you’d like further information on any of these services, please contact Marie on firstname.lastname@example.org or your relationship manager.
E-Zine issue: May 2015