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Adapting to a hybrid world: The future of board meetings

How would you conduct board business if each member of your board lived in a different city, or even a different country? Though many organisations flourished meeting virtually during COVID-19, boards of directors still require time spent face-to-face. Ana Plaza, an independent director and audit committee chair, Yiannis Petrides, director on the board of PUIG and chairman of PUIG’s Audit and Compliance Committee, and Eileen Kamerick, a member of the board of directors for several organisations, met at Diligent’s 2021 Modern Governance Europe event to discuss how COVID-19 changed the future of board meetings, and to what extent that future will remain virtual.

How would you conduct board business if each member of your board lived in a different city, or even a different country? Though many organisations flourished meeting virtually during COVID-19, boards of directors still require time spent face-to-face.  

Ana Plaza, an independent director and audit committee chair, Yiannis Petrides, director on the board of PUIG and chairman of PUIG’s Audit and Compliance Committee, and Eileen Kamerick, a member of the board of directors for several organisations, gathered at Diligent’s 2021 Modern Governance Europe event to discuss how COVID-19 changed the future of board meetings — and to what extent that future will remain virtual.   

COVID-19 Changed Board Meetings for the Better 

COVID-19 forced boards to quickly adopt a virtual model. Plaza says her companies were meeting more often to resolve issues they never saw coming.  

“There were a lot of new things that we didn’t have on the agenda on the 1st of January […] So we need to find a time in our agendas to have those meetings. So they were very frequent and also very rapid and very dynamic,” Plaza says. 

Because their organisations were more frequently meeting, both Plaza and Petrides agreed that COVID-19 accelerated entry into the digital world.  

“There is nothing like a crisis to actually help you transform. And certainly, what I have seen is that with COVID, there is a new board governance framework that is emerging,” Petrides says. “And I do feel that this new governance model is going to lead to improved board effectiveness” 

Boards Have Become More Agile Than Ever 

According to Petrides, this new board framework includes an increased use of technology, better work/life balance and a renewed need for cybersecurity. He believes these areas will only improve board effectiveness.  

“We have more meetings and the boards were a lot more agile addressing the issues in real time versus pre-COVID, when you would have five, six, seven board meetings a year, and you would stick to that,” Petrides says. “So overall, my conclusion is that what we’re experiencing now will lead to an improvement in board effectiveness.” 

Kamerick also believed that video conferencing encouraged boards to dial in on their key priorities for each call, an approach that also increased effectiveness.  

“I think that’s a reprioritisation and a focus that […] will really help with corporate governance and improve the effectiveness of corporate governance, and really recentre directors on what is key and what needs to be focused on and prioritised,” Kamerick says.  

The Future of Board Meetings Will Be a Hybrid of Virtual and In-Person 

Plaza says many organisations are more open to a hybrid model than they may have otherwise been. Both virtual and in-person meetings now have their place.  

“I think it’s very important to meet in-person from time to time and save these meetings in-person for big discussions that need to happen on the board, such as the strategy,” Plaza says. “But there are others that we are used to dealing with and on a regular basis that we know very well and we just need updates. So for that, virtual mode is fantastic.” 

Though Kamerick does expect more boards to adopt a hybrid model, both Kamerick and Plaza agree that in-person interaction is still a critical part of any board.  

“I don’t think we should forget that boards are human entities and it’s important to interact in-person,” Kamerick says.  

COVID-19 forced boards to enter the digital world. But their real evolution has only just begun. Watch the full session to learn more about the future of board meetings in a virtual world.  

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