Corporate Board Member and global, senior executive search firm Spencer Stuart today announced the results of the 10
annual What Directors Think survey, a comprehensive report on boardroom trends gleaned from the responses of U.S. corporate directors nationwide.
The results of the 2012 survey show that boards need directors who are prepared to deal with a host of issues internally and, increasingly, externally, from the sudden departure of a CEO to newer concerns such as cyber breaches and social media risks.
Interestingly, 88% of directors surveyed report that their boards already possess the right skills to compete in the present environment, which may explain why just 291 new independent directors joined the boards of S&P 500 companies last year, while a decade earlier the number was 401.
Julie Daum, co-head of the North American Board and CEO Practice for senior executive search firm Spencer Stuart, says some of the findings should be cause for caution on the part of corporate boards. “Directors have to oversee many factors that didn't exist 10 years ago, due to new technologies, social media and more complex global issues. It’s a bit surprising when there is such little turnover, that directors believe they have the right expertise already on their boards,” Daum says.
In addition, grappling with an emergency succession—the kind that happens abruptly due to unforeseen circumstances—emerged as one of the chief worries for board members, with 74% of respondents classifying it as either a moderate or very high concern. While it’s understandable that issues that are beyond a board’s control can cause anxiety, Daum believes boards are doing a better, “more thoughtful” job of preparing for the worst case scenario than they did a decade ago. “Emergency and planned succession are on the agenda, being discussed regularly. ... This marks a significant shift. In the past, the CEO drove succession planning—now boards do it.”