There is a growing trend for Boards to seek specialist Non-Executive Directors
It used to be the case that a Non-Executive Director’s independence was their most desirable quality, these days, however, there is a growing trend for Boards to be looking for NEDs with a particular specialism especially where there is an obvious knowledge gap around the boardroom table in digital marketing or cybercrime for example.
Especially in sectors where technology or markets are evolving rapidly, it is vital for boards to be able to provide effective non-executive challenge to keep the executives on their toes and ensure that the business is seizing opportunities and not lagging behind the competition.
Specialist NEDs, particularly those whose specialisms are in one of the newer disciplines are also likely to be younger and from a more divers background than traditional Non-Executive Directors.
There is no need for the rise in specialist NEDs to threaten the non-executive nature of the role or the effectiveness of the unitary board as has been suggested by some Corporate Governance commentators – this trend is merely an expansion of the more common situation where a finance professional sits on the board as non-executive audit chair, to accommodate the rapidly changing environments most businesses operate in.
Specialist NEDs are more likely to keep themselves up to date with their subject than their fellow generalist NEDs on the board and are likely to command a premium in fees, especially in the newer and more sought after areas.
If you are a NED, or are looking to become a NED, with a background in Governance, Sustainability, Solvency, Digital, Remuneration or Start-ups, for example, then you should make sure that you highlight your specialism on your CV and LinkedIn profile