Press Release

Willis Towers Watson calls for diversity of thought for boards to remain effective in the new economy

Firm says many boards still lack the diversity and specialist skills required to successfully navigate new challenges

October 11, 2017
| Singapore

SINGAPORE, 11 October 2017 — Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company, has called on listed companies in Singapore and Asia to prepare themselves for emerging risks by addressing the composition and effectiveness of their boards.

Based on its experience working with firms across the region, the consultancy believes a more strategic approach to board composition can help improve company performance and the effectiveness with which boards navigate the uncertainties of increasing digitalisation and automation in workplaces. It is only through diversity of thought and experience – covering functional expertise, market experience, geographic exposure, tenure, and gender – that today's boards will be able to effectively navigate the challenges of the future.

To continue to help companies in the region address these issues and find the right balance in the boardroom, Willis Towers Watson today announced the appointment of Shai Ganu as Managing Director, Talent & Rewards, ASEAN and South Asia.

In his role, Shai leads a team of over 200 consultants covering the Board Advisory, Management Consulting, and Information Services portfolios. Shai works extensively with Boards, Remuneration and Nominating Committees, and C-suites across the region on compensation, performance management, talent management, organization development, and board effectiveness issues.

The makeup of effective boards

Part of Shai's focus will be to help companies build boards for the future, looking at board effectiveness and composition, and ensuring that the board has the required skills to deal with emerging challenges and opportunities which may be entirely different to what made companies successful in the past. Boards now need capabilities in new areas and fresh perspectives to truly succeed in the new economy.

"As at any level of an organisation, diversity of thought and experience among board members are vital for ensuring a company is adequately prepared to respond to emerging risks and opportunities. Track record, experience and distinction remain vital qualities in any director, but boards should also nominate directors with diverse skills and perspectives. It is important that boards address the big five of diversity: gender, age, cultural background, industry/geographic exposure, and functional domain expertise," said Shai Ganu, Managing Director, Talent & Rewards, ASEAN & South Asia, Willis Towers Watson.

For example, the increasing focus on reputation management warrants greater emphasis on directors with PR and marketing backgrounds; while the technological shift taking place in almost every industry highlights the importance of leaders well-versed in digital and cyber-security considerations. Also, given most companies believe that people are their most important asset, it follows that boards should have directors with relevant Human Capital expertise.

"Diversity of functional expertise is particularly pressing. Some larger institutions in Singapore have got this right, and we all can learn from them. However a number of small to mid-sized listed companies still favour directors with commercial, accounting or legal backgrounds. We don't see enough companies with directors having specialist skills across domains such as Public Relations, Risk and Crisis Management, Information Security and Human Capital – which are increasingly important considerations in the new economy," he added.

Growing the talent pool in Singapore

While Singapore has some exceptional directors, the traditional talent pool for candidates is more confined compared to other developed markets such as Australia and the UK, where the professional director construct is more prevalent. This isn't to say that the local market is lacking for talent. The reality is that capable and forward-looking leaders may be overlooked because they don't necessarily meet more traditional expectations.

"One way to grow the candidate pool is for companies to start balancing their traditional approach with emerging skillsets. This requires a shift in thinking about what makes a good director, and more importantly, recognition of the value different directors bring. Complementary yet diverse thoughts can help guide the response to any situation and lead to more prudent decision making. Ultimately, this will help boards carry out their main responsibilities of ensuring regulatory conformance, and driving company performance in the new economy," Shai added.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 39,000 employees in more than 120 countries. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.

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