The Bel20 looking for "reassuring" administrators - Trends-Tendances sur PC

The Bel20 looking for “reassuring” administrators – Trends-Tendances sur PC

Experienced profiles with operational skills are the most popular for the renewal of the CAs of Belgian companies, according to the “board monitor” of Heidrick & Struggles.

Administrator, it is not a mandate that one entrusts to a beginner. The average age of new directors appointed last year in listed European companies is 56 (57.7 for the Bel20), according to the board monitor carried out for the sixth consecutive year by Heidrick & Struggles, a consultancy specializing in the selection of managers and directors. Barely 7% of new directors in Europe are under 45 years old. Would the handover between the generations be a little chilly?

Administrator, it is not a mandate that one entrusts to a beginner. The average age of new directors appointed last year in listed European companies is 56 (57.7 for the Bel20), according to the board monitor carried out for the sixth consecutive year by Heidrick & Struggles, a consultancy specializing in the selection of managers and directors. Barely 7% of new directors in Europe are under 45 years old. Would the handover between the generations be a little chilly? “You have to look at where we come from, replies Marie-Hélène De Coster, partner in charge of Heidrick & Struggles Belux. There is clearly a good trend towards younger members of the boards of directors in Europe. the arrival of Ibrahim Ouassari (co-founder of Molengeek, editor’s note) on the Proximus board is another profile, another generation, another way of thinking and this will bring other types of questions to this board. given the role of a board of directors, it would not make much sense to multiply these kinds of appointments.” The desire to bring experience to the boards is reflected not only in the age of new directors but also in their profiles. Many of them are or have been CEOs or CFOs and a majority already held another directorship (57% compared to 52% a year earlier). At Heidrick & Struggles, we see a desire by companies to “return to basics” in this period filled with uncertainty. From this perspective, it is interesting to note that COOs (chief operating officers) are popular in Belgium and win 31% of new directorships, compared to barely 17% in 2020. This perhaps opens up the risk of seeing operational issues take precedence, within the Board, over the longer-term strategic vision. “I don’t think so, says Marie-Hélène De Coster. With the pandemic, then the war in Ukraine, inflation, supply chain problems, we are facing challenges that must be addressed for the sustainability of companies want to be able to rely on people who have proven operational experience and can help them get through this stormy environment in a successful way.” In the same spirit, there is an ever-increasing representation of people still working in CAs (69% in Belgium, 67% in Europe). We move away each year from the image of these councils where bosses came to “slipper”, once retired. “It is intellectually very rich for an executive to sit on a board, assures the manager of Heidrick & Struggles Belux. He brings up-to-date managerial know-how and, on the other hand, he learns from the inside functioning of a board and very often, this then helps him, as CEO or CFO, to better interact with his own board. But obviously, you have to know how to change posture, blend into the role of administrator and do not succumb to the urge to act operationally.” The search for experience also seems to slow down the feminization of boards. The proportion of women among new members has in fact fallen from 45 to 43% and even 31% for Belgium. And there are even fewer women among the people for whom this is their first directorship. “Even though progress in gender equality has been made, boards tend to require more prior experience – and generally higher qualifications – for women than for men,” the study points out. ‘Heidrick & Struggle. It will be necessary to seriously review the priorities to respect the European rules which plan to reach at least 40% of administrators women in 2030. The study specifies that only France and Italy reach this threshold. And yet, the quota is reached there only in 75% of the companies. Diversity, however, is broader than gender, age or diploma. At Heidrick & Struggles, we seem convinced that tomorrow, the best students in the class will be those who have succeeded in expanding their networks to bring to the Board a certain diversity of ethnic origins, socio-economic conditions, sexual practices or religions. These concerns are, according to the study, more present in the United States, European societies being more focused on the gender issue. As for the diversity of nationalities, that’s a good point for the smaller countries. With 62% of “non-nationals” among new directors, Bel20 companies display the second largest international openness after Switzerland. It brings a different perspective on how the company works, which is never a bad thing in a globalized economy. “It is also a representation of the customers of these listed companies which generally sell their products or services on all continents”, adds Marie-Hélène De Coster. The 2021 board monitor had highlighted a strong interest from listed companies in appointing directors with cybersecurity skills. Belgium even posted the European record with 17% of new members having experience in this field. This time, we fall squarely to… zero. The explanation is twofold. On the one hand, over the past year there have been only 13 appointments in Bel20 companies, which inevitably limits the statistical possibilities. On the other hand, we already know that 72 mandates (out of the 212 of the entire Bel20) will be renewed over the next two years. On the other hand, there is the logic of forming a council. “The purpose of a CA is to vary skills and types of perspective, explains Marie-Hélène De Coster. In recent years, we have seen the appointment of people with expertise in cybersecurity or digital. Once this skill exists in the CA, it is not necessary to duplicate it. On the contrary, it is necessary to leave room for other skills. Among these other skills that could be very useful, we obviously think of everything related to sustainability. And there, surprise, no Belgian company has retained new directors with experience in this area. At the European level, it is hardly better since there is a ceiling of 10% of new administrators. These results are considered “challenging” at Heidrick & Struggles, where it was expected to see the climate focus of both the European Union and most large companies reflected in turnover. “Operations today focus a lot on integrating the sustainable dimension into production methods, analyzes Marie-Hélène De Coster. It often takes several years before a focus of the operation has repercussions in the CA. We are also receiving more and more requests from companies looking for good profiles with this skill. Nevertheless, I think that we will have to work even harder to raise the attention of company authorities on the sustainability issues.

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