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 Directors must lead with integrity

2018-03-22 00:00
Anne Engelbrecht

ADP guest speaker with arnold and others.JPG 

Jon Duncan (Head of Responsible Investment at Old Mutual Investment Group (OMIG)), Prof Arnold Smit, Programme Director of Africa Directors programme, Sherma Malan (IoDSA), Karabo Murule, MD Personal Finance at Old mutual (guest speaker) and Prof Daniel Malan (Director: Centre for Corporate Governance in Africa at USB)​

"I strive to be the best that I can be in roles where I am a director, or in a director-like role, such as public officer. As a member of the actuarial profession, I feel my duty to uphold the trust society has in the profession".

These were the words of Karabo Morule, MD Personal Finance, Old Mutual when she spoke of the importance of boards maintaining organizational integrity given the environment we are in, especially from an ethical perspective at the certificate event of the USB-ED Africa Directors Programme, held at Old Mutual Place in Sandton on 6 March 2018.

For those not operating in a formal professional area she recommended to take a look at the South African constitution, one of the most advanced in the world, which provides guidelines for anyone who might be asked to serve as a director. The Company's Act also asks directors to ensure that they act with skill, care and due diligence.

The company is a juristic entity and a separate person and needs to hold its own in the environments in which it operates. It needs to have integrity in its dealings and that is why the roles of the boards of directors and executives are so important.

Key for her was when she was a sponsor-elected trustee of Old Mutual SuperFund (at the age of 28) that each trustee brought special expertise into their roles. Lawyers, from various fields of specialisation, a corporate executive, a social worker and an actuary all had a role to play. At each board meeting there was not only the dedication to the task, but time was also spend on professional trustee development.

"Having the best directors, who take diversity of thinking into account, makes for a great enabler of organisational integrity", she said.

There are two sides to the coin in ensuring that the right skills are on board and not too many of the same skills. Diversity of thinking and experience is crucial plus each member needs to be really independent.

She shared that there is one person she would have loved to invite for dinner, Thomas Sankara, the late former president of Burkino Faso who was a feminist and encouraged women to take up leadership roles. He said, "The revolution and women's liberation go together. We do not talk of women's emancipation as an act of charity or because of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the triumph of the revolution. Women hold up the other half of the sky."

You have to ask yourself as a board member how can you be a responsible member of society if you don't have representation from the demographics of society – diversity around gender, race and age.

She went on to quote Telecoms billionaire and champion of good governance, Mo

Ibrahim, who often underscores how the African continent is a continent of young people with many of its political leadership on the wrong side of 75. It is therefore important to also have younger directors with a fresh critical mind and a different sense of what is happening in society. They may be more plugged into social media such as Twitter and can warn an organization if they miss public sentiment or warn if a social media crisis is brewing.

One of the challenges which directors will have to include is how the organisation responds to the external environment and how it will need to make tough decisions. It is important to look after both shareholders and stakeholders, always with sustainability in mind. When one considers sustainability, is the company thinking about the sustainable development goals? Is the company considerate of recycling materials used by the company? Or does the company perhaps chase profits at the cost of quality controls or the economic environment? What about retrenching staff when we already have high unemployment and especially for our youth? And what about caring for the financial wellness of staff?

Will you as a board member consider audit firm rotations or rather listen to your CFO who might think it is a hassle? And what about doing board assessments, being open for feedback on individual performance as a board member and being self-critical as a collective?

Ms Morule also noted that at Old Mutual they take their role in society seriously and strive to be a responsible business across its whole business portfolio. Therefore the company values the role it has played in the formation of the Africa Directors programme.

She concluded by saying "In accepting a role as a director, imagine the company and all of its stakeholders are accepting of you saying, 'Thuma Mina' and consider quite deeply the profound impact your role can play in ensuring we have a better South Africa and a better African continent as well."

​Presented by USB Executive Development (USB-ED), the programme has the Old Mutual Investment Group as corporate partner, as well as the involvement of the esteemed INSEAD Corporate Governance Initiative  with its world renowned International Directors Programme, the USB Centre for Corporate Governance in Africa and the IODSA.

Prof Arnold Smit, the programme director of the ADP on USB-ED's behalf, said that the ADP counts for him amongst the most meaningful and satisfying leadership development journeys that he has ever been involved with as a programme facilitator. This is due to both the quality of participants on the programme and the quality and commitment of excellent faculty.

The Africa Directors Programme is "for the continent of Africa and for the world. We have a governance framework and a board leadership journey that we want to share widely," Prof Smit said.

Certificates were handed over to participants by USB-ED CLO, Dr Tienie Ehlers. The programme was presented in Stellenbosch last year.

For enquiries about the Africa Directors Programme, please contact 

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