What skills do Non-Executive Directors need?

Use this checklist to see if you have the skills Non-Executive Directors need to be effective

non-executive directorsRegardless of any specialist expertise, Non-Executive Directors must be independent, have integrity and the respect of the other board members, be prepared and able to look at the business from a ‘big picture’ perspective, be well-informed and manage difficult decisions in a facilitative manner.

The chemistry with other board members is vital. It is the Chairman’s responsibility to ensure that the Board functions as a team, with the NEDs functioning as a cohesive unit within the Board team.

NEDs should act in a mature and professional manner and be prepared to make a stand if they do not agree with the way the organisation is being run. Increasingly NEDs are obtaining professional qualifications such as the Institute of Directors’Chartered Director qualification to demonstrate that they have the understanding and experience to undertake their non-executive duties in a thoroughly professional manner.

Examples of how you demonstrate the following skills are commonly asked for when applying for Non-Executive Director positions:

  • Integrity – high ethical standards
  • Sound judgement – willingness to challenge
  • Interpersonal skills – listening, persuasiveness, ability to communicate ideas, sensitivity, openness and awareness of non-verbal communication, co-operation and team-working, facilitation skills
  • Leadership and self-awareness, ability to gain respect and attention, confidence
  • Critical thinking, creativity and strategic awareness – the ability to take the wider, strategic view
  • Business acumen, ability to identify new business opportunities, embrace change and innovation
  • Ability to assimilate, assess and analyse information, especially financial information
  • Political astuteness, diplomatic, able to deal with conflict
  • Determination, with the tenacity and drive to succeed
  • Keenness to gain new knowledge and skills to develop competences further

The list above is not exhaustive but highlights the important skills you will need as a Non-Executive Director. Along with your knowledge, background and experience, these skills will equip you to be an effective member of the Board in either the private, public or voluntary sector

How to write a Non-Executive Director CV

A Non-Executive Director CV is different from an Executive CV

Non-Executive DirectorThe skill-set required to be a successful Non-Executive Director is different from an Executive Director’s skill-set so it makes sense that your Non-Executive Director CV should be different from one you would use to obtain an Executive position.

A summary of the skills needed to become an effective Non-Executive Director can be found here. Your NED CV will need to demonstrate that you have these skills by drawing examples from your current and previous executive and non-executive roles.

Because of this need to provide more evidence about how you match up to the NED skills criteria there is some acceptance that the usual requirement for a strict 2 page CV can be relaxed and that a NED CV can be between 2 and 4 pages long. This is not universally accepted though and some recruiters will still demand a full chronological executive type CV with a 2-page limit.

Your NED CV should contain the following:

  1. Your contact details on the 1st page with your address, email and phone numbers. It is a good idea to have your e-mail and telephone number in the header or footer of the CV continuation pages.
    You should have a LinkedIn profile and provide the address with your other contact details. It is important to make sure that your LinkedIn profile and your CV are consistent with each other – there should be nothing in your CV that is not in your profile and visa versa. The level of detail does not have to be the same though and your CV should be the more concise of the two.
  2. A candidate profile, summarising the key skills, or useful experience you have to offer to a Board as a Non-Executive Director or Chair. This should be less than 6 points and not more than 8 and should highlight areas of your experience which demonstrate that you have the required skills.
    Recruiters will be looking for a mixture of NED boardroom skills such as ‘Strategic Evaluation’ or ‘Risk Management’ and some personal areas of expertise that a particular organisation may require for its Board such as ‘expertise in digital marketing’, ‘strong IT product development track-record’, ’10 years’ experience of luxury goods sector’, ‘Finance Director experienced in VC/EIS fundraising’, ‘NED with IPO and AIM-listed company experience’, ‘Experience of Chairing PE backed companies’.
    The candidate profile is probably the most likely part of your CV that you will want to tailor when applying for a particular role.
  3. Your current and previous Board-level experience as an actual Chair, or Executive or Non-Executive Director. You can also include here any experience you may have had acting as a board-level consultant, Company Secretary, Trustee or Governor.
    In particular, you should mention any formal Board subcommittees, such as Audit, Finance, Remuneration, Nominations or Governance that you have either Chaired or were a member of.
    If your role was not as a Companies House registered director you will need to explain the nature of the Board and how the experience you gained in the role is relevant to being a Non-Executive Director.
    You should also mention here any qualifications you may have such as Chartered Director from the Institute of Directors or the Financial Times NED diploma. If you have attended a course or workshop such as the Excellencia How to become a Non-Executive Director course. to prepare yourself for the role that is also worth mentioning.
  4. A complete and accurate career record with dates and a description of your major achievements and responsibilities in your more important roles. Minor/brief/early roles can simply be mentioned without descriptions. Career breaks are not a problem so do not try to hide them. The career record should not only say what you have done but also back up the skills and expertise you claimed in the first section. Again make sure everything is truthful and accurate.
  5. A summary of your relevant professional, educational and technical qualifications, especially any that would be relevant for a particular Board appointment or Board subcommittee – such as an accounting qualification for an Audit Committee.

Format

You will often be asked to provide a CV in word format, if you are given the opportunity to provide one as a pdf, then take it as it ensures that your CV will be formatted and print out exactly as you intend it to be

Summary

As with all job applications there are no hard and fast rules covering the format and content of your CV. Try to see your CV with the eyes of someone who is wanting to make a Non-Executive Director appointment – think about what they are looking for and whether your CV has demonstrated that you have the knowledge, skills, background and experience to be an effective NED.

10 things Non-Executive Directors can do to satisfy their legal responsibilities

Falling foul of the law can have serious consequences for Non-Executive Directors – here are 10 steps you can take to avoid it happeningNED3

The 2006 UK Companies Act, which sets out the legal duties and responsibilities of Company Directors, is one of the longest pieces of legislation ever written. Falling foul of the law can have serious consequences for directors including personal and potential criminal liability yet many directors, particularly NEDs, take on their roles in blissful ignorance of the law.

Before becoming a company director you should have a basic understanding of your legal duties and responsibilities and you should check for indemnity provisions in the company articles of association and your Directors’ and Officers’ (D&O) insurance arrangements.

Once in post, here are 10 things you can do to avoid the potential pitfalls:

  1. Remember that compliance is the responsibility of all directors – not just the Company Secretary, Chair, CEO or other Executives.
    Whilst individual directors may have particular responsibility for the day-to-day mechanics of compliance, it is the board’s responsibility, collectively, to ensure that the statutory requirements are met. Filing annual returns and accounts may be the job of the Finance Director or Company Secretary but persistent failure to file on time can lead to penalties being imposed on all the other directors, including the NEDs. Make sure that the board receives regular assurance on compliance matters and do not assume it is being taken care of by the other directors.
  2. Check your status as a Company Director.
    Many Non-Executives start working with boards as advisors or consultants before they are formally appointed as NEDs and assume that as they are not registered as a company director at Companies House then the law does not apply to them. If you actively take part in board meetings or hold yourself out to be a director then you run the risk of being classified as a “shadow’ or “de facto’ director and thus share the same legal duties, responsibilities and liabilities as the other board members. Make sure that your legal status and that of the other board attenders is clear.
  3. Keep accurate records of board meetings.
    Every board meeting agenda should contain an item which gives directors the opportunity to review the minutes of the previous meeting. Make sure that you use this opportunity to make any corrections that are required to ensure that the minutes accurately record the discussions that took place together with any resolutions and actions. Pay particular attention to items where your personal contribution is mentioned. Keep your own copy of board minutes for at least six years after you have ceased to be a member of the board..
  4. Be aware of key statutory filing requirements.
    Make sure that you know when key documents such as the annual accounts and annual returns need to be filed. You can use the Companies House web-check facility to check that the business is up to date with its filing requirements. Also be aware of other matters such as certain shareholders’ resolutions, allotments of shares and the appointment of new directors, which need to be notified to Companies House within specified time limits.
  5. Familiarise yourself with the Articles of Association and other constitutional documents.
    One of the prime duties of a company director, as set out in the 2006 Companies Act, is to ‘act within powers’. These powers can be found in the company’s Articles of Association together with any shareholder agreements or contracts which form the constitutional documents for the business. As soon as you are appointed to a board you should read these documents and familiarise yourself with the specific requirements for the calling of a shareholders’ meeting or provisions relating to directors’ meetings and remuneration. The board should review the Articles on a regular basis to ensure that they are still relevant to the operation of the business
  6. Take all reasonable steps to avoid conflicts of interest.
    ‘Declaration of interest’ should be a standing agenda item for a board meeting, giving directors the opportunity to declare a personal interest in an item to be discussed at that meeting. There should also be a register of interests, reviewed annually, which records the external interests of board members and their immediate families. These are both particularly important for NEDs who are more likely to have external interests than the executives. However, simply declaring an interest is not necessarily all that a director has to do to avoid a conflict of interest. It may be appropriate to physically absent yourself from the board meeting for the duration of the discussion of a matter where you are conflicted and have this absence clearly recorded in the minutes. In some cases directors resign their posts and re-join the board once a conflicted matter has been resolved.
  7. Avoid accepting benefits from third parties.
    Taking a bribe from a potential supplier is clearly wrong but what about corporate hospitality? As with conflicts of interest, many boards keep a register to record gifts or hospitality given to directors or senior managers, usually above a set amount. They also have specific policies and procedures that directors should adhere to. The best advice though is not to accept anything, even a sandwich or cup of coffee if it could be interpreted as an inducement by a third party.
  8. Watch out for insolvency.
    After failing to file your statutory documents on time, the next most heinous crime a director can commit is ‘trading whilst insolvent’. A company is insolvent if it cannot pay its debts when they are due to be paid. Many businesses, especially start-ups or those with high growth can sail near to or actually become technically insolvent. They can then only continue to trade if they have a reasonable belief that they can trade out of their insolvent position. It is vital therefore, for the board to seek external advice from an insolvency practitioner as soon as possible in order that there is independent confirmation of the reasonableness of their position. Failure to act promptly and responsibly can leave directors open to unlimited personal liabilities.
  9. Speak out – do not ignore warning signs.
    If you have concerns about any company decisions, or the content of any documents such as accounts or board papers, make your views known. It is your duty to act with reasonable skill, care and diligence. The 2006 Companies Act does not differentiate between executive and non-executive directors – as a board member you are jointly and severally liable for all board decisions and can become personally liable if the board knowingly does something illegal.
  10. Get trained to become a company director.
    A Non-Executive Director appointment can be a very rewarding career move but it is not something that should be entered into lightly. In addition to performing due diligence on the business, a prospective NED should fully understand the duties and responsibilities of a company director.
    Excellencia provide a 1-day course for prospective NEDs (How to become a Non-Executive Director) for £330 (ex VAT)