Issue: 
2017 Annual Report
TOP OF MIND: What directors are thinking
By Eve Tahmincioglu

ALISON DAVIS, DIRECTOR: Unisys, Fiserv, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ooma.

“One of the leading-edge issues in corporate governance right now is corporate sustainability. This has been my focus as a director, having served on 11 public boards, as well as in my work with the Athena Alliance, an organization dedicated to advancing gender diversity within boardrooms.

 “I always start with these questions: What is the purpose of the company? Is it sustainable long term? And can the company create lasting shareholder value without also creating overly stressful jobs, challenged communities, or other negative externalities?

 “Of course, financial success is important. But some CEOs can be overly focused on maximizing short-term shareholder value and can sidetrack even the most diligent and responsible boards. Trying to maximize returns for short-term shareholders is a sure way to fail. Building a vibrant company that can thrive for generations means shareholders can do well, in line with their expectations, without sacrificing the long-term sustainability of the company. As the stakes get higher on investing in inno

vation, competing for customers hearts and minds, and competing to attracting talent, this will be an increasingly pressing issue for boards in the years to come.”

Alison Davis is co-founder of Fifth Era and co-author of Build Your Fortune in the Fifth Era and Corporate Innovation in the Fifth Era. She was previously the managing partner of Belvedere Capital, a private equity, and she was Chief Financial Officer of Barclays Global Investors, now BlackRock. She is active in the community supporting non-profits and social enterprises as a board director, fundraiser and volunteer. She has been frequently named a “Most Influential Women in Business” by San Francisco Business Times.

MARY BETH VITALE, DIRECTOR: CoBiz Financial Inc.

“There are proposed bills in Congress to mandate you have a cyber expert on your board. Institutional Shareholder Services is hinting toward having cyber expertise on company boards as part of their scorecard for those firms most at risk. In my opinion, boards need to continually assess the skills on their board to ensure they are able to execute their fiduciary responsibility of oversight on behalf of the stakeholders and provide advice for the strategic direction of the company.

"Board seats are valuable real estate and if you have one slotted for industry expertise, one for cyber, another for sustainability, you end up with silos and not enough business and board governance expertise to guide the company through the strategy and to weather tough times. That is our responsibility.

"That said, I believe you need to ensure that the skill sets on your board align with the strategy of the company that allows counsel from your fellow board members to assess and provide guidance on all of the business risks. Cyber risk is a business risk, one of many and a c

ompany needs board members to assess the company’s risk appetite, be educated on new and existing risks and apply the appropri

ate guidance. That takes board members with broad expertise, not just in one specific area.”

Mary Beth Vitale also sits on the board of GEHA, Inc., a health, dental and vision insurance carrier to Federal employees and retirees; she was a commissioner for Colorado Governor Bill Owens Commission on Science and Technology; she has held the National Association of Corporate Directors prestigious Leadership Fellow designation since 2011, and she launched the Colorado Chapter for Women Corporate Directors this past year. She was also named a Director to Watch in 2016 by Directors & Boards.


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