article banner

The case for transforming your approach to governance

Sarah Bell Sarah Bell

Corporate governance is often viewed as a barely necessary evil, burning resource whilst delivering little in terms of value, but new research is set to change all that.

Is governance the secret to building success?

Mention corporate governance and what do you get? An eye roll? A pained sigh? A begrudging acceptance that investing in decision-making infrastructure would be a great ‘nice to have’?

Many organisations feel this way, approaching the UK Corporate Governance Code (the Code) with a tick box mentality designed to deliver the bare minimum necessary to comply with regulations.

The problem is that not only is this approach expensive and inefficient, but it’s also dangerously misguided, potentially costing you a lot more than money. Put bluntly it could cost you your business. It doesn’t have to be this way.

A different approach

Our research proves the link between strong governance and growing financial performance. The report highlights how the most successful companies use the Code as a blueprint for the perfect environment for sustainable value; how their corporate governance practices focus all the organisation’s assets, whether they be financial, human, intellectual or beyond, on aligned goals, value generation, whilst simultaneously ensuring that risks are taken and managed appropriately.

Our report shows conclusively that this approach delivers. Both in terms of increasing the business’s capacity to create value and to sustain it for the long term, companies getting smart about governance are seeing the benefits.

What success looks like

Spanning a decade of data from the Grant Thornton Corporate Governance Index (CG Index), which tracked over 500 FTSE 350 companies across ten different industries, the research found that companies consistently investing in decision-making infrastructure:

  • delivered double the total shareholder returns than companies failing to invest in decision making frameworks
  • remained twice as likely to retain a FTSE 350 capitalisation as companies scoring lowest for quality of governance

Perhaps most importantly the research found that when a company significantly improves its corporate governance practices, it transforms its ability to create value. Noting that, for those companies improving their governance practices, each step up between quartiles in the CG Index tracked:

  • an average 44% increase in operating cashflow
  • 46% increase in free cashflow
  • 10% improvement in operational efficiency.

Time for action 

It’s clear that if you’re looking to generate sustainable value, the evidence from our research demands action, but where to start? What areas of corporate governance should your company focus investment on to drive the biggest returns?

Pulling directly from the research analysis found that corporate governance leaders (those in the top quartile of the CG Index) scored high in six key areas.

1 Clarity and connectivity

Understand your business model. Know how your company makes money and articulate this clearly enough to draw a direct link between it and your strategic objectives, values, risks and rewards.

2 Culture integration

Define and articulate your culture. Be clear about values and behaviours and identify the key metrics you will use to monitor success in embedding that culture into your decision making framework. 

3 Board effectiveness

The composition of the board should reflect the company’s strategic priorities markets and risks. Create an environment which leverages diversity to build a broad skill set in your key decision makers.

4 Succession planning

Identify the skills you will need to deliver future strategy and take time to develop future leaders at senior management level and below. Outline how succession planning interventions are improving diversity.

5 Risk management

Anticipate and understand the principal risks to realising your strategy and purpose, provide detailed disclosure on them to your decision makers and plan the appropriate level of mitigation.

6 Internal controls

Understand your controls framework and how it operates to manage all principal risks (not just financial). Develop a system to regularly monitor the effectiveness of your controls, and maintain consistent controls across divisions.

Getting the board on board

Understanding the need to transform your approach to governance is only half the battle of course. Even identifying which key areas offer you the best opportunities for growth means little if you can’t persuade your board that governance is worth investing in. So how do you bring the business with you?

The facts

The findings of our research Getting smart about governance makes a compelling case for investment. Make sure you have all the information to give the clearest picture.

Expert witness

Use corporate governance experts to talk your board through how and why best practice governance can help a company create and retain value. 

A clear plan

Benchmark your current governance arrangements against best practice and your peers and use the insight to develop a targeted programme that will deliver fast (and persuasive) wins.

If you’ve been paying attention it will come as no surprise that we are ideally placed to help you with all of the above.

In fact, from outlining the benefits of transforming your approach to governance to leading an effectiveness review of your board, we are ready to help you plan, sell in and deliver the change your business needs, whatever you decide to do.

What is essential is that you decide to do something. The tick-box approach to corporate governance is simply no longer viable for any business looking to accelerate growth, manage risk and remain profitable.

It’s 2019. When it comes to governance best practice ‘nice to have’ is no longer an option.

Download our report