The Board is responsible for providing strategic leadership and oversight to IPSE, and any IPSE member can stand in the annual elections. Robin Murray Brown, the independent Chairman of IPSE’s Nominations Committee, takes us to the door of the boardroom and tells us how to get in.
Can you start by telling us about the role of the Board?
The Board has many different responsibilities, but in the end they boil down to three key areas: setting IPSE’s strategy, holding the Chief Executive to account in delivering that strategy, and making sure that IPSE meets its legal and regulatory responsibilities as a company and employer. Of course, an effective board doesn’t do any of this in isolation, and the IPSE Board also has a duty to consult and listen to the membership through various channels, such as the Consultative Council (CC).
So the Board basically runs the organisation?
No, the Chief Executive runs the organisation and the Board runs the Chief Executive. IPSE Board members are non-executive – that is, they set the direction, agree the business plans and budgets, and review how management and staff have delivered. They are there to advise, consult and challenge when necessary, but not to do the day-to-day work of the staff.
How often does the Board meet?
There are four formal board meetings a year. These normally last half a day and require a fair amount of reading and preparation. The Board also has a number of sub-committees, such as the Audit & Risk Committee, which meet separately. All Board members also attend the AGM. From time to time, the Board will work with other working groups to look at specific issues. In addition to this, Board members are expected to be regular attendees at IPSE events, and to be available, if required, to act as ambassadors or representatives of IPSE in key meetings with politicians and officials.
Who is on the Board and how long do they serve for?
There are currently six elected members, one of which is the chairman, two independent directors and the Chief Executive, making nine in total. The elected members and independent directors are appointed for terms of three years, and can stand for a further term of three years. The appointments are staggered so typically there are two vacancies every year, with the elections being held in the autumn.
Tell us more about the election process. Who are the voters? How do candidates put themselves forward?
The way candidates stand and get elected to the IPSE Board combines IPSE’s commitment to democracy through member involvement and best practice corporate governance. Any IPSE member can stand as a candidate provided they have been a full member for a minimum of 12 months come the announcement in the autumn. For the annual elections this is normally in early October. The announcement sets out details of any particular skills, knowledge or experience the Board feels it needs at that time as well as the general qualities candidates must show. Candidates simply apply to the Nominations Committee (NomCo), normally with their CV and a personal statement of some kind. NomCo reviews all the applications against the Board’s criteria and identifies which candidates best meet the requirement. Even if a candidate seems not to meet that standard, they can still decide – if they wish – to stand in the election. The voters are the CC who, as a forum elected by the whole membership, assess the candidates over the next few weeks in a series of face-to-face and online hustings before voting.
What can members do to find out more about standing for or being on the Board?
As the independent Chairman of IPSE’s Nominations Committee, I can say that we want to draw on the wealth of experience, talent and enthusiasm of IPSE members for the Board. I would encourage people who might be interested to seek out Board members at IPSE events, or whenever possible, to find out more. They can also do some research and reading on the subject: there is a wealth of information out there in places like the IoD [Institute of Directors] website and at networking events.
Finally, how would you sum up the personal qualities you think are important for the Board?
Let me give you three: commitment, collegiality and common sense. The Board has to be determined and responsible in its decisions. Directors have to work together and show respect in their work. And, because there always comes a point when issues are not black and white, Board members have to show they can exercise discretion and judgment.
Robin Murray Brown is a board-level headhunter with executive search firm Tyzack. He specialises in supporting clients on senior appointments in a range of sectors both in the UK and internationally. He was appointed as independent Chairman of the IPSE Nominations Committee in March 2015.