2017 Third Quarter
TOP OF MIND: What directors are thinking
By Eve Tahmincioglu

Teva Pharmaceuticals, Brixmor Property Group.
Former board chair for Whole Foods

“The importance of strategic board refreshment is not only a topic in boardrooms, but is clearly, and appropriately, top of our mind for our shareholder constituencies as well. 

“One of the most important topics in boardrooms these days is the increased imperative to make sure we have the right directors at the table given the company’s current and future needs. While in some ways this is not a new topic, the nature of the conversation has evolved due to the recognition that given the rapid rate of change in industries that are more frequently being disrupted, planning for and managing board refreshment is paramount. 

“Although typically our fellow directors are all very diligent and capable, in this dynamic environment it is increasingly important to regularly assess whether the skills and experience that were relevant when they were brought on the board meet the needs of the organization today and going forward. In this dynamic context, it is all the more critical that boards: 1) ensure thoughtful director succession planning; 2) determine the best approach for mapping and identifying important current and future director skill set gaps; 3) consider reviewing size and tenure policies if natural attrition is inadequate to ensure the addition of new skills and perspective; and 4) balance refreshment with retention of institutional experience and wisdom.”

Gabrielle Sulzberger is a Trustee of the Ford Foundation, serves on the board of the WomenCorporateDirectors Foundation and is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute.  She has served as General Partner of Rustic Canyon/Fontis Partners, a private equity fund based in Pasadena, Calif.; and served as CFO of several public and private companies. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University, a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School and Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. 

ERIN LANTZ, DIRECTOR: Washington Federal, TrueCar

“As technology continues to advance and the competitive landscape changes, I believe it’s most important that boards and executive leadership teams keep innovation top of mind. Board members are keenly aware of increased public scrutiny along with a growing number of challenges—from cybersecurity to shareholder activism—but the one that I spend the most time focusing on is disruptive technology, and how that could reshape company strategy.

“As directors, we must make sure we are looking around corners and anticipating the next big landscape changes. And we need to encourage our executive teams to do the same. I often ask myself: Are we doing enough to build the capabilities of this team so we can grow, continue to innovate and adapt as the competitive landscape changes?

“Directors need to maintain a strong and healthy curiosity, and perhaps a bit of paranoia, about what’s coming next from their competitors and the tech industry at large to determine potential impacts. Boards should work to ensure its directors encompass a broad range of perspectives and skills, from current and former CEOs to those with more specialized skill sets (cybersecurity, consumer tech, etc.). This will best position the company to be able to handle the challenges that may impact it for years to come.”

Erin Lantz is the Vice President and General Manager of Mortgages at Zillow Group. Prior to Zillow, Erin was Senior Vice President at Bank of America and worked at the Boston Consulting Group. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School.


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