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PRESS RELEASE – The message was clear at the Caribbean Governance Training Institute’s second annual Directors’ Conference on Monday and Tuesday, July 6-7 in Saint Lucia: Organisations which choose to ignore today’s reality and fail to strengthen the effectiveness of board governance are likely doomed to fail.
And who can argue with that rationale? In these corporate scandal-filled days since spectacular failures of big banks and PR blunders of big oil became regular headline news, the level to which its board is effective can make or break any organisation, and the buck stops only at the top.
Where the governance of a company is concerned, there can be no more crucial training and development than that of its Board, as Dr. Chris Bart, Chairman and Executive Partner of the Saint Lucia-based Caribbean Governance Training Institute (CGTI) continues to reiterate to participants of the two-day series of seminars.
“At CGTI we believe in building better businesses by building better boards,” says Dr. Bart. “It’s not easy being a good corporate director these days. There are three essential qualifications that all directors must meet if they are to properly do their job: Competence, Curiosity and Courage.”
Dr. Bart and members of the CGTI faculty bring to the table a broad expanse of expertise and education in the seemingly vast and complex world of corporate governance, a world which has seen cataclysmic changes over the past twenty years. No longer can an organisation rely on a complacent cadre of hand-picked yes men in high places to deliver profits and dividends to shareholders, as the scrutiny of social media goes viral and a proliferating press is just looking for the next newsworthy scandal.
Keeping the company nose clean in public is just one of the barrage of collective skills required by an effective board; asking the right questions to verify, confirm and prove that all is well financially is another, as is making the tough decisions to safeguard the interests of stakeholders and ultimately the reputation of the company. At the CGTI Director’s Conference it was made very clear that a new day has dawned for Caribbean organisations if they are to compete for investment and grow the region’s economy.
“This is the second annual conference on hot topics and scary trends in corporate governance, and it really is our attempt to continually update Caribbean organisations on the latest answers and current trends that ultimately will affect them here in the region,” said Dr. Bart on Tuesday. “The world of governance is constantly changing, and our knowledge of what constitutes effective corporate governance is continually evolving, so this conference is an attempt to help board members to do their job which is monumental.”
When the subject is corporate governance, there’s an old adage which is a propos: If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. It appears that Caribbean organisations are getting the message, and CGTI has trained more than 100 of the region’s active board members from a wide range of businesses including banks, tourism and financial services. Dr. Bart warns that the more relaxed reporting requirements and media scrutiny in the region should not mislead Caribbean boards; the next scandal is around the corner and if you’re not looking for it, the results could be disastrous.
“As long as Caribbean corporations do not need investment to grow, and they can generate their own capital and profitability, it’s easy for owners and boards to stick their heads in the sand and say they don’t need good, effective governance. But the moment you step outside and look for international investors to fund that growth, you have to face the level of scrutiny required by modern companies to safeguard against risk and protect their assets. They expect the Board of Governors to be the ultimate risk management system. If they fail in that role, the organisation fails.”
The second annual Corporate Governance Conference was attended by directors from the Financial Services Regulatory Commission in St. Kitts, Demerara Mutual Life Assurance in Guyana, credit unions in Grenada and banks in Antigua, Dominica and St Vincent.
The Saint Lucia Tourist Board Director Louis Lewis also participated. Speakers at the event which was entitled “Aspiring towards a culture of effectiveness and accountability in the Board Room included Chartered Directors Steve Prowse and John P. Ryan, retired partner in corporate PR David Weiner and Dr Chris Bart, founding member of The Directors’ College in Toronto, Canada.