“Traditionally risk and audit have been grouped together into one board committee, but this can leave little time to focus on emerging risks because you have to do a deep dive on the financial accounts at least twice a year,” explains Vickki McFadden, Board Director, GPT Group, Allianz Australia and Newcrest Mining. “So, it makes sense for some boards to have a very focused risk committee.”
Beyond committee structure, how can boards liberate themselves for more focused and strategic discussions that will lead to better decision-making and outcomes? Technology – and AI in particular – can reduce the amount of time that boards spend on routine tasks. For example, AI can read, review and validate financial reporting, which in turn will free up capacity for more in-depth discussion and decision making. Equally, by analyzing large volumes of data over time, AI can quickly establish trends and patterns that would have taken years to uncover due to the scope, speed and scale improvements that AI brings.
Naturally however, boards must ensure that their AI strategy is embedded in their enterprise strategy. And that means ensuring that there is robust governance around its ethical use; intention is key here, and areas such as unintentional bias and discrimination must be avoided at all costs in order to build trust in AI and mitigate reputational risk.
Get AI right, and it will be a force-multiplier for board directors and an accepted brain in the boardroom – not only fact checking, but also generating new detailed insights with real-time analysis of financial and operational data, trends and patterns.
2. Promote diversity at board level
Surprisingly, given the almost daily diversity debate in the global media, boards are not convinced of the need to evaluate board composition and augment skill sets. Just 30% believe this would improve their risk-management oversight. And just 6% of C-suite executives anticipate significant changes in leadership in the next 12 months, according to the EY Capital Confidence Barometer.
But in order to reflect the organizations and societies they serve, boards must, by design, seriously consider their current and future composition. It is not just the ethical thing to do – it also translates to greater commercial success.
“At some point between 2035 and 2040, we will reach the time when the majority of people in the US are people of color,” says Herman Bulls, Board member at USAA, Comfort Systems, Host Hotels & Resorts and American Campus Communities. “If you don't have that diverse perspective in your boardroom, you’re not going to be as effective and therefore competitive going forward.”