When negotiating settlement agreements for senior executives I often seek payment from the employer to cover my client getting support from an outplacement specialist like Heather Greatrex of GatenbySanderson. After working with Heather for a number of years, she inspired me to create a resource for anyone wanting to become a non-executive director, or at least learn about the rewards, challenges and common pitfalls of becoming a NED.
But what are these rewards, challenges and common pitfalls felt by anyone who is looking at becoming a non-executive director? Being a non-executive director (NED) can broaden your perspective, develop new networks and provide board-level experience. It’s also a great way to follow your passions and possibly extend your working life. Many organisations recognise the benefits and may allow you to take a NED role upon request.
Clients who are heading towards retirement are often interested in learning whether building up a NED portfolio is an option.
In the article below Heather, partner career coach/outplacement/recruiter gives us the inside track on why NED roles can be appealing.
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Heather Greatrex – Partner, GatenbySanderson
A non-executive director (NED) provides independent oversight and guidance and constructive challenge to the executive directors of an organisation.
There are many different opportunities to become a non-executive director. These include publicly listed and unlisted companies, Government/public sector Boards, Foundations/Trusts and the NHS. Many charities and other not-for-profit organisations and associations provide non-executive opportunities in the form of Trustees or, for example, School Governors. These roles are unpaid but enable you to develop great experience being a non-executive.
All the above provide opportunities to broaden your experience and see organisations from a different perspective. NED roles can provide a stimulating and rewarding alternative to the day job/retirement scenario. Employers often recognise the advantages of NED experience for senior employees and their organisations’ social responsibility agendas. If you are not applying to a competitor, they may support your search for a NED/trustee role.
Most senior executive employment contracts include a restriction on any outside interests (which will include NED/trustee roles) and hence you should always seek permission from any current employer before applying for such a role.
Within the non-executive world, a wide range of roles are available. Most Boards have sub-committees which, in many cases, include Audit, Appointments, Remuneration and Finance Committees which require specialist professional skills as well as cross-cutting expertise in, for example, Strategy, Digital and HR. This includes an increased involvement with CSR and well-being.
To keep abreast of increased regulation, other skill sets are sought, for example, expertise in UK GDPR. Additionally, there is a drive to increase the diversity of Boards and using NEDS can help a business achieve this aim. Hence most organisations will want to attract a diverse NED candidate field to ensure better representation of any currently under-represented minority groups.
Alok Sharma, the former Business Secretary said in September 2020, “Research shows that diverse leadership teams are more innovative and make better decisions. As the UK economy continues to recover from coronavirus, increasing representation of women on boards represents a golden opportunity not only to rebuild but build back better.”
The Parker Review, set up in 2017 to improve ethnic diversity on the boards of UK-listed companies, has found that, in 2020, 37% of FTSE 100 firms still had no non-white members on their boards.
So, there are many opportunities for you to develop a non-executive career and here are some of the reasons why you may be interested in these NED roles:
Although some non-executive roles are remunerated, many more are not and money will often not be the main motivator.
There are thousands of trustee roles which are both unremunerated and can take up an inordinate amount of time. However, these same roles can also be incredibly rewarding. So, it is important to be very clear about why you want to take on a NED/trustee role as this will have an impact on the choices that you make. I know Chairs of charities who can spend two days a week in their role, with no remuneration and, in smaller charities, there can be significant scope creep.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you are targeting paid NED Board roles, you will need to consider the ‘rule of thumb’ being that you are unlikely to be successful in achieving a NED role that is more senior than your highest executive role.
If you are interested in Board roles, here are some links which you may find useful:
GatenbySanderson has a Board/NED practice along with a number of other recruiters:
Now that we have covered the roles and responsibilities of becoming a non-executive director, as well as the benefits of taking on a NED role, we have put together all of the considerations of how you can become a NED.
Heather Greatrex is a Partner at GatenbySanderson which has a highly respected Board/NED practice. She has many years of experience in supporting individuals to develop both executive and non-executive careers. As a Director of Executive Action, she co-created and for 10 years co-presented a very successful workshop for aspiring non-executives with the Whitehall and Industry Group.
If you would like to know more about being recruited to Board positions (either executive or NED), please contact Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article/blog is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.