The Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide for Corporate Boards

corporate boards

Every year, the holidays seem to roll around and catch us by surprise. Amid the busy holiday season, it can be hard for corporate boards to find enough time for themselves, let alone all the hard-to-shop-for people on their list… No, we’re not talking about your mother-in-law, but rather the institutional investors, proxy advisors, and shareholder activists, who all seem to have a very keen idea of what they hope to unwrap this year.

If your board finds itself now in mid-December with little more than a thought to this year’s holiday gifting, don’t panic. We’ve put together a comprehensive holiday gift guide to help you find the perfect presents for the shareholders in your life. Let’s have a look:

1. Institutional Investors

As the matriarch of the board family, your institutional investors always seem to have your well-being at heart. They like to know that you’re making good decisions throughout the year, and they’re often thrilled to hear from you when your busy schedule allows a break to call home. For this busy Type-A personality, we recommend gifts that take the stress out of board engagement.

2. Proxy Advisors

For as long as you can remember, the proxy advisors in your life always seem to be dropping into holiday functions and offering guidance. While they have played a disciplinarian role throughout your life, you often acknowledge the value in their self-help advice. When it comes to gifting, these bookworms love a good proxy statement or CD&A.

3. Shareholder Activists

Always the wildcard at holiday functions, Great Uncle Activist seems to have mastered the element of surprise. Despite his booming voice and eggnog-fueled anecdotes, you’ve developed a level of respect for the underlying truths he often spouts. Either way, you’ve learned to anticipate and prepare for his antics. This explosive personality just likes to know you can shoot from the hip; so don’t get caught flat-footed at the next holiday function.

    Knowledgeable directors who can engage both internally & externally.
    Too often, directors are not prepared for interactions with shareholders. In our Investors Board Performance Review, activist Greg Taxin (of Spotlight Advisors, LLC.) said he can quickly “sniff” out the directors who are unprepared or simply don’t understand nuances of their company operations. Shareholder engagement is quickly becoming an essential skill set and responsibility of today’s corporate board members. Boards must ensure that they have knowledgeable directors who are comfortable with these kinds of shareholder interactions; they must also anticipate red flags that an activist could raise.

    Effective board evaluation program.
    This “gift idea” goes hand-in-hand with the above discussion of board composition. If boards can’t take action related to their own composition, then we know a few activists who will… The most fundamental way to assess board composition is through an effective board evaluation process. Peer-to-peer evaluations are recommended every couple years and leadership must be capable of taking action when evaluation feedback calls for it. At least once every three years, evaluations should be conducted by an outside third-party to ensure impartial assessment of the board’s leadership and performance.

Handbook of Corporate Governance by Richard LeBlanc

Whichever gift you choose, we can guarantee a positive response from the hard-to-shop-for shareholders in your life. For those of you who are looking for a gift that’s, perhaps, a little more tangible, we recommend The Handbook of Corporate Governance: A Comprehensive Guide for Public, Private, and Not-for-Profit Board Members. Authored by Dr. Richard LeBlanc, this book is an effective survey of the current governance environment, not to mention an excellent compilation of subject matter experts.

To all the board members out there, happy holidays!

Catch the Highlights: Investors Board Performance Review

BlackRock, Vanguard, Trian Partners, and PwC

We hosted three sessions of our Investors Board Performance Review at the Nasdaq MarketSite, where major investors, proxy advisors, and activists gathered to express their feedback on board performance.

What are boards doing well? Where can they improve? What expectations do they have for shareholder engagement?

Watch Highlights