Fox Chase Cancer Center
Temple University Health
Technology has long infiltrated the boardroom, including everything from board portal apps for tablets to filing sharing systems.
Thomas Hofmann, the former CFO of Sunoco, Inc., and current director for West Pharmaceuticals, has embraced the changes, to a point.
He uses the portals provided by the boards on which he serves, but there’s part of him that’s still old school — often opting for printed out documents and face-to-face interactions whenever possible.
“I’ve been around for a long time,” he quips. “I prefer hard copies.”
About half of his fellow board members also use print documents just like him. But, when meetings are finished and minutes are distributed, the hard copies are destroyed.
One tech advance he does appreciate is digital document delivery. It’s been great, he says, for board members to get information in a timely manner prior to meetings.
Hofmann likes getting committee reports, the board book, and other documents piecemeal so he has time to give everything a thorough read. When reports were sent in the mail in the past, the companies would wait for all materials before sending the package, which would delay delivery.
When he’s served as chair of audit committees, Hofmann’s communication with company CFOs has been extensive prior to meeting with other board members.
“In addition to developing the agenda, we’d discuss all significant accounting and reporting issues, as well as any other significant matters that would come before the audit committee,” he explains.
Many of the boards he’s served on have been close to home, so his travel schedule is typically easy to manage. West Pharmaceuticals is based in Exton, Pa., just a short drive from his home in a neighboring suburb, Malvern. He also serves on the boards of nonprofits Fox Chase Cancer Center and Temple University Health, which are also local.
Hofmann dresses business casual for the public company board meetings he attends, but his non-profit board gatherings tend to be more formal, basically office appropriate.
He prefers face-to-face committee and board meetings, so he only joins in telephonically if he’s tied up with a nonprofit responsibility. And he estimates between the three boards he serves on, including committee and board meetings, he has 40-45 meetings a year.
Between meetings, Hofmann monitors news and gets notifications from company management, and industry and governance sources to make sure he’s on top of what may be impacting the organizations he oversees.
As a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors, he receives governance updates regularly and other specific reports from think tanks and accounting firms that specialize in the pharma industry.
“A number of the boards I’ve been on are in the oil and gas field,” he says, noting, however, that he was also on a medical device corporate board prior to this one. “I didn’t grow up in that industry, so [the information] is helpful.”
He advises new board members to “be well prepared and focus on the major drivers of the business.” — April Hall