In an era of rapid technological change and with increased focus on corporate conduct, a lifelong learning mindset will be a director’s best ally. An increasing number of company directors are seeking professional development and education opportunities that build on the basics of corporate governance and, indeed, go well beyond.
The AICD provides three clear education levels for its members: Starting, Strengthening and Mastering. These levels provide directors — and those aspiring to step up in their career — with the grounding in good governance and directorship that will suit all levels of expertise and knowledge.
Starting programs include the Foundations of Directorship, which can be done as a three-day course or in one-day components covering governance, finance, strategy and risk. It can be done face-to-face or in-house.
The Strengthening level includes the AICD’s flagship program, the Company Directors Course, suitable for directors seeking knowledge of both performance and compliance issues and for those who want to develop or grow their directorships. The Company Directors Course has a variety of formats, including five consecutive days, one day a week over five weeks, and one module a week for 10 weeks. There are also residential and self-paced options.
The Mastering level includes Mastering the Boardroom, a four-day program for experienced directors. It is aimed at enhancing directors’ strategic and lateral thinking, and understanding of boardroom processes.
The AICD also offers a range of course specialisations on issues such crisis management, solvency and innovation, as well as short courses, webinars and eLearning programs framed around specific topics to build skills across core and individual, board, organisational and stakeholder areas. See page 57 for further details.
Maria Mohr, deputy CEO of the Department of the Chief Minister for the Northern Territory and a recent participant in the Company Directors Course, says it was great reminder of how good governance is critical for any organisation to function effectively.
“It was a light-bulb moment when I realised I needed to stop being an executive — that is answering the questions — and think like a director and ask the questions,” Mohr says.
Another recent participant, Jade Gooding executive manager mental health at Headspace (Anglicare) says the Company Directors Course was recommended by other graduates.
“It was an intensive five days and I can confidently walk away with a deeper understanding of my obligations as a director and executive,” Gooding says.
In mid-2017, Mirvac Group chair John Mulcahy MAICD, also a director of ALS, GWA Group, and Zurich Australia, and chair of Orix Australia, organised for the property developer’s board and key executives to participate in a half-day workshop at the University of Sydney’s John Grill Centre for Project Leadership.
He believes the experience has enhanced the organisation’s project management governance. While Mirvac already had very strong governance in place the session helped emphasise the importance of milestone reviews.
“There are a number of gateways in the life of any major project and it is a good thing to recognise that these are opportunities rather than stumbling blocks,” he says.
“We always did a number of milestone reviews, but we now have more knowledge about the importance of these, which has led to more time spent questioning before a project even begins, carrying on right through the early stages of design and risk assessment, well before anyone actually arrives on site.”
Professor Suresh Cuganesan, CEO of the John Grill Centre for Project Leadership, says directors have much to gain from pausing to think deeply about the governance around major projects their businesses are undertaking.
“When major projects go poorly, it is often because of decisions, or non-decisions, that were made right at the start,” Cuganesan says. “So, boards can benefit from a better understanding of when the critical points for intervention are.”
AICD Education Course Options
AICD has a range of upcoming courses to help directors sharpen their skills.
- Foundations of Directorship
This three-day course focuses on the role of the director and the board, offering a straightforward introduction to financial statements and systems, and provides an overview into strategy planning and risk.
- Company Directors Course
The AICD’s flagship program, the Company Directors Course, focuses on the role of the board and the practice of directorship including duties and responsibilities, decision making, risk, strategy, financial literacy, and driving financial performance.
- Governing to Protect Vulnerable People
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and other investigations involving (but not limited to) elderly abuse, Indigenous deaths in custody and abuse of people with disabilities in institutional settings, have increased community awareness and concern. This course examines the director’s role and responsibilities in relation to the protection of vulnerable people and the culture of a “safe” organisation.
- Cyber for Directors
Working with Data61, AICD has developed a course to help directors identify evolving threats and risks to their organisations, and maximise the opportunities to innovate and grow using the lifeblood of any organisation, information.
- Governance Foundations for NFP Directors
This course provides NFP directors with an understanding of fundamental compliance and performance-related roles and responsibilities, specifically in areas of governance, risk, financial performance and strategy.
- Advanced NFP Governance
This course focuses on key strategic considerations for boards in enhancing the sustainability of the NFP organisation, including funding and increasing revenue, effective board compositions, board structures and internal board processes, and managing conflicts of interest.
- Advanced NFP Governance for Indigenous Boards
This course will give an insight into the board’s role in oversight and dealing with issues that relate to how the board is performing — within its own structure and with other stakeholders and regulators. The focus is on helping Indigenous boards identify ways of measuring performance and ensuring outcomes.
- Raising standards, not eyebrows
Webinar on why ethics in governance is more important than ever — 18 Oct, Midday–1pm (AEDT)
Company Director Course Specialisations
- Preparing for Sale
Focuses on planning for an SME owner or director preparing to sell a business.
- The Board’s Role in Crisis Management
Enables directors to confidently respond to a crisis situation.
- Ensuring Solvency
Addresses the legal, strategic and ethical considerations related to insolvency, voluntary administration and financial turnaround — giving directors the confidence and tools to manage in times of financial distress.
- Directing Innovation
Addresses the strategic and risk considerations in a market which is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). It will give directors the tools to plan and prepare a business strategy in a fast-moving market, and a more agile perspective on how the business could operate.
- The Board’s Role in Mergers & Acquisitions in the Not-for-Profit Sector
Information on the commercial, legal and strategic issues involved.
Sally Freeman, who is in charge of risk consulting at KPMG Australia, describes directors as “an intensely curious breed” who will seek out advanced learning.
“Being a director can be quite a lonely career,” Freeman says, “so another benefit of attending courses is the networking and learning opportunity that comes from engaging with other senior people from different organisations.”
The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry has prompted many boards — including those from beyond the finance sector — to engage more seriously with ethics and cultural training.
Petrina Coventry FAICD, a long time AICD course facilitator and Industry Professor at the University of Adelaide, works with executives and directors via a combination of award programs and custom courses. Coventry is an experienced business ethicist who has worked with global companies Coca-Cola, General Electric and Proctor & Gamble. She is also a senior partner at Asia-based COI Capital and a director of Beston Global Food Company. She describes her goal as being to help senior business leaders “move beyond a compliance culture”.
Tino Guglielmo MAICD, managing director of ASX-listed Bass Oil, also serves on South Australia’s Minerals and Energy Advisory Council as well as the state’s Resources Infrastructure Taskforce. He has been training with Coventry in recent months. An engineer by trade, he says decades spent working for US and Australian-based corporates with operations in developing countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, primed him to share Coventry’s views about the importance of moving beyond a compliance culture.
“As Petrina says, companies can choose a high road or a low road in their approach to compliance,” Guglielmo says. “A focus only on legal compliance is taking the low road. What is needed to take the high road, in terms of corporate culture — it is an approach driven by ethics and underpinned by an understanding of philosophy and values. This will drive richer, more sustainable positive outcomes.
“We need to turn a profit. But to create a successful multi-generational enterprise, we have to do more than just manage compliance and make money. We should be looking to create lasting positive outcomes for society.”
Enhancing core competencies
Phil Caris MAICD, group general manager of human resources and SHE (Safety Health and Environment) at Graincorp, and a trustee director of superannuation fund LUCRF Super, completed an intensive program in 2016 at Melbourne Business School, which offers an Advanced Management Program that brings senior executives and directors together for three-day intensive residential learning with experts who usually teach their MBA programs.
Caris sought out the finance for non-finance managers program at a time when mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity meant that engaging with complex financial reporting had become an increasingly important part of his day-to-day role. “I’m now pretty comfortable finding my way around cash flow, balance sheet and profit and loss statements — that’s a really important skill set for understanding the financial health of a company,” he says.
One of the hottest topics on the agenda for savvy directors is improving their technological and digital literacy. Robert Webster, head of board services at Korn Ferry and holder of a number of directorships including Brickworks and Allianz Australia, says a passion for continued learning is a hallmark of top-quality directors. He says he has observed more and more boards collaborating with academics and a heightened appetite among directors to develop an understanding of the digital landscape. “There is a high demand for directors who understand digital disruption and have experience with that,” he says.
Lindley Edwards MAICD, CEO of AFG Venture Group, has completed a five-unit MicroMasters program in Digital Leadership from Boston University through edX. “The beauty of micro-accreditation online is that you get to complete it in your own time. Many of the good business schools give great materials and case studies — applying the academic and theoretical to real world examples,” says Edwards. “It has made a difference already, not just to the questions I ask, but to applying that thinking to business models.”
Antony Beaumont, managing director, CEO and board services practice at Russell Reynolds Associates, says “almost every board” his team is working with is looking for ways to get more digital expertise.
“It’s a great way to bring global thought leadership to businesses you’re on the board of.” – Wayne Banks MAICD, MD/co-founder IGNITE Alliance
Exposure to big ideas
Jenny Morawska MAICD, CEO and president of the Morawska Group and a director at Research Australia, travelled to California in 2017 for a nine-week immersion with the Singularity University.
“I consider myself a futurist,” Morawska says. “But even I was surprised by what I learnt from 130 world experts in new technologies and future forecasting.”
Wayne Banks MAICD, a former ASX-listed chief operating officer and CFO, now co-founder and MD of IGNITE Alliance and a non-executive director of SecureBuild Australia, is a member of the advisory board to the university’s first Australian chapter.
“It’s a great way to bring global thought leadership to businesses you’re on the board of,” Banks says. “Australian companies must be even more innovative and inventive to compete on the global stage.”
The university will host its second event in Australia in Sydney on 14–16 November.
Around the Courses
AICD director members have tapped a range of outside courses to deepen their knowledge.
EdX is a non-profit organisation with a mission to increase education worldwide. Founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012, edX is an online learning hub and MOOC (massive open online courses) offering high-quality courses from top universities and institutions.
University of Technology Sydney’s one- to two-year MBA in Entrepreneurship program is designed for entrepreneurs and innovators. It allows students to study in stages while developing their own projects. Participants can access the UTS Venture Lab, a mentor program, masterclasses and events with entrepreneurs and industry partners.
The University of Queensland Business School offers three learning options for its MBA program. It also offers a Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for those who want to gain hands-on experience in applying an innovative mindset in business, managing product and service development, corporate innovation and commercialising leading-edge
Deakin University’s MBA course is offered both on-campus and online. The University describes the course as “renowned for its flexibility and industry connections”.
Deakin has partnered with the Institute of Managers and Leaders (IML), which means Deakin MBA students can elect to become members of this strong leadership network for the duration of their study.
The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
CISL runs a two-day residential program in Victoria for directors, exploring strategic issues and global challenges.
Directors who have attended include Ewen Crouch AM, chair of the BlueScope Steel board’s risk and sustainability committee, Michael Ullmer FAICD, incoming chair of Lendlease and Jann Skinner FAICD, from QBE Insurance.
“The program was thought-provoking,” says Skinner. “While not providing immediate answers to the issues arising from climate change, it helped develop strategies and initiatives for directors to take forward with their boards and management.”
Ullmer agrees. “I found the program very stimulating, and an opportunity to reflect on global developments in sustainability,” he says.