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Robots at the top table?

Divina Paredes | Aug. 15, 2017
Institute of Directors chief executive, Kirsten Patterson, and EY director, Una Diver, talk about the modern boardroom and its growing reliance on big data.

Credit: Dreamstime 

Institute of Directors CEO Kirsten Patterson indicates 'robots' will soon be part of, if not are already part of, boardrooms in New Zealand.

"We might not see a robo adviser sitting on a chair, but what we will see is greater reliance on artificial intelligence led data and analysis," explains Patterson, during the launch of the IoD 2017 Directors' Fees Report.

There are lots of opportunities for directors who have the ability to aggregate and distil trends, adds Una Diver, director at EY, which partnered with IoD on the report.

Diver says a CIO moving to the professional director space would be thinking, 'How can I demonstrate my skills around data, artificial intelligence and cyber that will position me to be attractive to my governance career?'

"I don't think two years ago many people talked about cyber risk in the same way as they are talking about it now," says Diver.

"So if we look ahead at the trend in directorships, it will be around thinking about when boards are considering their skill matrixes. How are we covered for digital, particularly about cybersecurity?"

"The big thing directors need to be is to be able to comfortably lead through change and uncertainty, adds Patterson.

"More and more they are being asked to deal with a level of regulatory and liability responsibility in very detailed level. They have to be able to get right down from a helicopter view to be able to assess those issues.

"Those issues coming across the board are really complex ones."

"We spend days in strategic planning sessions, talking about a three-year goal," observes Diver. "Yet, we know the pace of decision making, of change, is getting faster.

"Faster access to data means things are more transparent and impacts are very quick," says Diver. "We need to make sure the people who are governing our organisations are comfortable with that environment and can truly govern in that environment."

Apart from upcoming trends boards need to prepare for, the two note positive information around remuneration for New Zealand directors and diversity around the board.

The latest report finds that pay disparity between male and female non-executive directors has dropped by more than half over the past three years.

In 2015 the pay difference between male and female non-executive directors was 21.6 per cent, in 2017 the gap was down to 9.9 per cent.

"The challenges of disruption and the modern world, call for modern and diverse boardrooms," notes Patterson. "So it's pleasing to see that the gap between male and female non-executive director fees continue to close."

Non-executive director fees had a moderate increase to $44,000 up 2.3 per cent from $42,994 in the 2016 year. For non-executive chairs the median fees also increased less than in 2016. The median non-executive chair fee increased from $54,000 to $55,000.


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