From Sunday, June 29 to Tuesday, July 1, more than fifty of the region’s senior executives and Board members participated in the Caribbean Governance Training Institute (CGTI)’s inaugural Caribbean Corporate Governance Conference, entitled “Excelling Beyond the Basics” – the first of its kind in Saint Lucia and the Caribbean. Many more of such conferences are planned.
CGTI is the brainchild of local management training and development company Milestone Development’s Lisa Charles and global governance and strategy guru Dr. Chris Bart, founder of The Directors College in Canada, who have collaborated since 2013 to bring world class governance training to the Caribbean region.
Both professionals realized that improving governance standards and practices would benefit all types of Caribbean corporations, companies and non-profit organizations, thereby contributing to the development of the region as a whole. The response to the recent three-day conference certainly confirmed that premiseand included high-profile Caribbean organizations such as the National Banks of Dominica and St. Kitts, Consolidated Foods Ltd, the Bank of St Lucia International, Sagicor Insurance and the Amalgamated Bank of Turks and Caicos.
Conference participants from Turks and Caicos, British Virgin Islands, Belize, Antigua, Dominica, Trinidad, St. Vincent, St. Kitts and St. Lucia were introduced to five world renowned experts who conducted them through the latest “hot topics” in corporate governance and provided them with the strategies, tools and valuable insightsfor dealing with the fast-paced changes occurring in the governance sector.
Enhancing the performance and effectiveness of the Board and examining relationships between the Board and Management were central themes. Conference speakers challenged participants to both rethink their governance experiences for surviving in today’s hostile and volatile business environment.
As a result of the topics presented, discussed and debated during the conference, many session participants described the emerging governance trends as “downright frightening.”
The evolving role of the Board in both “strategy” and “risk oversight” were major topics that dominated a lot of the discussions. Presenters however provided new state-of-the-art methodologies to assist Boards in navigating their organizations through these often uncharted territories.
Improving key functions like the Audit Committee, where the most burdensome Board responsibilities lie, offered spirited discourse and plenty of opposing views. Similarly, the session on Board selection and succession touched on new systems of recruitment, selection and development of Board members as crucial to the longevity and success of the organization.
Perhaps the most animated session of the conference was delivered by the legendary shareholder activist Mr. Eric Rosenfeld, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive of New York based investment firm, Crescendo Partners L.P.During his session “On becoming a more effective Board/Committee Chair”, Mr. Rosenfeld shared his multitude of experiences from the Boards of the numerous US and Canadian corporations with which he has been involved.
Later, in a role playing board simulation exercise developed exclusively for the Conference, groups of delegates were asked to form a Board, complete with Chair and CEO, who then battled it out in a scenario using real life business situations and challenges. The participants threw themselves into the roles and, after an hour of passionate debating and vigorous posturing, five “boards” delivered five different “resolutions”, clearly underlining the often-repeated CGTI motto that where Board governance is concerned: “No one size fits all.”
Feedback from the three day event was enthusiastic across the board – pardon the pun! According to delegate Joy N. Francis, CEO & Executive Director of National Bank of the Virgin Islands: “Participating in this conference has proven to be a very insightful experience. The sessions provided thorough coverage of pertinent subject matters . . . all of which are critical to adhering to the highest levels of sound corporate governance.” Larry Bardouille, Chairman of the Board of Dominica Water & Sewerage Co. Ltd was equally impressed: “This programme has provided new and cutting edge ideas and information on corporate governance, board leadership and risk assessment which are critical to the survival of organizations and companies. CGTI has used world class facilitators with industry experience and expertise to impart this important knowledge and help build good governance capacity in the region.”
Dr. Chris Bart, Chairman and Executive Partner of CGTI observed: “At CGTI we believe that you build better businesses by building better boards and Caribbean directors seem to agree with this sentiment. The response to CGTI’s first Caribbean Governance conference has been overwhelmingly gratifying for us and we were pleased to provide a governance program that seemed to squarely hit the mark. Indeed, many directors told us that our governance conference was exactly what they had been long thirsting for: to the point, persuasive and practical. Our Governance Fundamentals program commences September 30, 2014 in St. Lucia and Oct 2, 2014 in Antigua”