Jan 242015

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Competition for Non-Executive Director roles is fierce so how do you differentiate yourself from the opposition?

non-executive directorThere has never been a better time to become a Non-Executive Director. With a growing emphasis on Corporate Governance in boardrooms around the world there is a growing demand for skilled directors who are qualified to be effective board members in organisations of all sizes in the private, public and voluntary sectors.

Yet competition for NED roles is stiff with many more applicants than there are available positions - so how do you stand out from the crowd and get yourself on NED interview short-lists?

Fortunately, there are a number of courses you can attend which will give you the information you need to make successful NED applications. Varying in length from half a day to six months, with costs varying from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand and with venues across the country, there are plenty of courses to choose from.

For what to look for when choosing a course refer to our previous post here

The following table lists courses available in the UK - if you are a course provider and your course is not listed here, please contact [email protected] and we will add it to the list.

 Course Title Provider Venue(s) Duration Cost Discounts
Non-Executive Directors Programme BVCA London 2 days £3,790 (ex VAT) BVCA members £1,895 (ex VAT)
Becoming an effective Non-Executive Director Cass Business School London 1 day £975
Being an Effective Non-Executive Director Civil Service College London ½ day £550 (ex VAT)
The Non-Executive Directors' Seminar Cranfield University Cranfield 2 days £1,875 (ex VAT)
How to become a Non-Executive Director Excellencia Birmingham
1 day £330 (ex VAT) NEDworks Tier1 members £280 (ex VAT)
Non-Executive Director Diploma Financial Times London 6 months £5,900 (inc VAT)
So You Want To Be a Non-Executive Director? Financial Times London ½ day £474 (inc VAT) FT NED club members £414 (inc VAT)
Effective Non-Executive Director Programme Financial Times London 2 days £1,800 (inc VAT) FT NED Club members £1,500 (inc VAT)
Non-Exec Workshop First Flight London 1 day £500 (ex VAT)
Non-Executive Directors' Programme ICSA London 1 day £500 (ex VAT) ICSA members£400 (ex VAT)
ICSA students£300 (ex VAT)
Role of the Non-Executive Director Institute of Directors London 1 day £955 (ex VAT) IoD Members £795 (ex VAT)
Essential Training Course for Non-Executive Directors NEDA London 1 day £450 (inc VAT)
NHS trust and foundation trust non-executive directors programme NHS
Cass Business School
London 3 days £2,400 Preferred rate £2,160

non-executive directorHaving invested the time and money in attending one of the above courses you will then need to ensure that you make the most of your background, skills and experience by preparing your Non-Executive Director CV and accompanying letter of application.

You will find advice on how to produce an effective NED CV here

Join NEDworks as a Tier1 member today to get your free NED CV review and other membership benefits

Dec 312013

Non-Executive Director appointments & Charity Trustee roles in the voluntary sector are a way of giving something back by using your corporate skills for the benefit of others.

non-executive directorIf one of your New Year resolutions for 2014 is to do more for charity and you are looking for new and different ways to develop your skills, becoming a non-executive director or trustee on a not-for-profit board, or charity could provide you with a unique opportunity and provide much needed support to the voluntary organisation.

More and more people with careers predominantly in the private sector are thinking about making a change, to do something different and are looking at public and voluntary sector roles. The not-for-profit or charity boards gain often much needed commercial expertise and the non-executive directors or trustees gain insights and knowledge from their involvement in the strategic and organisational development of an organisation.

These roles are generally unremunerated, though some do pay small fees and nearly all pay reasonable expenses - in most cases you will be giving much of your time for free and will be genuinely volunteering.

So, how do you go about getting a position with a not-for-profit or charity board?

The first step is to look around your network on LinkedIn or Facebook to see who else is doing this sort of work and contact them to find out more about what they are doing and to see if there are any vacancies coming up which may be of interest.

There are also a number of web-sites dedicated to filling these roles such as the following:





You might also want to identify local charities in your area - you can search the Charity Commission web-site below to get the contact details and then approach them directly




Competition for Non-Executive and Trustee positions in the public and voluntary sectors is fierce, however so it is wise to prepare yourself before making an application for a vacancy. Find out as much as you can about the organisation, what issues they are facing and who is already on the Board - often this information can be found on their web-sites.

It is also a good idea to talk to the Chair of the organisation informally if possible to see exactly what sort of skills they are looking for in a new NED or trustee.

You can also develop your knowledge of the role by enrolling on a Non-Executive Director training course such as the How to become a Non-Executive Director 1-day course from Excellencia - the legal duties and responsibilities of a company director are just as onerous on the board of a charity as they are in the private sector, some may say they are even more so - so it is good to be prepared!

There may also be other ways in which you can be involved with a charity as a volunteer which can lead to a Board position if you are not immediately successful with a NED or trustee application - the important thing is to get involved!

Dec 032013

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A newly appointed trustee explains how he got his current trustee role

Reprinted from the Non Executive Director Hub 3 December 2013


Colin-Lewis-200x300Tell us a bit about yourself and what role you currently hold?

I am 52 and married with 2 children. I qualified as an accountant in private practice then moved into industry and commerce working my way up the ranks until I became a statutory Finance Director.

I have served as a Pension Trustee and worked in B2C and B2B environments within services, manufacturing and the waste industry, the latter being related to my current role in the renewable energy / energy from waste sector.

As a consequence of moving jobs, sectors and facing different economic challenges I have built up a skill set outside finance including customer facing / commercial skills, supplier and contract negotiation, M&A including a management buy-in and disposal and start up.

By chance, in 1999, I joined a business that was already backed by private equity and we sold this business four years later. The PE investors appreciated the work I had done for them – cleaned up the balance sheet, made a successful disposal and generated a lot of cash through working capital management, but, since I held no equity, I did not participate in their capital gain. It was at this time in my career that I realised how the PE market operated and made a conscious decision to become an FD / shareholder. I got lucky and after 2 interim roles I landed an executive FD role with equity. I remained with this business for just over 7 years achieving an exit for the PE backers before moving into another PE backed start-up renewable energy business. People either love or hate PE backed businesses and thrive or not as the case maybe. They tend to be fast paced, pressurised and never satisfied with the status quo so there are usually deals to be done – be that sale and leaseback, acquisitions or re-financing. I happen to really enjoy these challenges and the last 10 years of my career have been in PE backed businesses.

Why did you decide to become a Trustee?

The PE and tough business environments I have worked in helped me realise that the day you stop learning is the day the competition comes running past you and takes your place. I began studying for an MBA at Warwick University aged 49 and, all being well, I graduate in March 2014. Having the opportunity to mix with people younger than myself, learn from them and feel their energy and enthusiasm has been a real buzz. Interacting with these people helped me formulate my idea to divide my life into 3 when financially able to do so – 1/3 leisure / family, 1/3 charity work, ideally for children or young adults and 1/3 fee earning / keeping the network alive / keeping the brain active either through consultancy or through NED activities.

This is your first time as a Trustee, how did this opportunity come about for you?

It is not quite my first Trustee position – I have served as a Pension Trustee in a final salary pension scheme with a significant deficit and I am treasurer of our local village hall. That said the role with NYWO is a step change and will I am sure open further doors in the future.

trusteeIn September 2013 Bryan Foss introduced me to a Chairman who was in need of financial skills and was looking for the final piece of a new management board for the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain (NYWO) and on 1st November I took up the role of Honouree Treasurer. This role ticks both the charity and the NED boxes for me – I can help this organisation restructure, I can save them money and I can bring in my executive experience and contacts to assist if relevant.

Do you feel your ‘personal brand/reputation’ played an important part in hearing about this role?

Not really; to be fair I have only met Bryan once when he lectured at an FT NED event and was kind enough to give me 1:1 advice at the end about NED roles; since then we have kept in touch via LinkedIn. Bryan probably took a view when he met me and / or studied my LinkedIn profile and network and may have referenced me (I am not sure). I got this role because I networked into meeting Bryan and he was prepared to put me forward – I think being in the right place at the right time was the key factor and being willing to help a contact of his.

Knowing the importance of personal branding we asked Bryan Foss what made him recommend Colin.   Bryan replied…

 “When the chair shared his problem at short notice to me, about 4 people came to mind that I could recommend. I connected them directly to the chair, told each of them that he was someone I trusted and described each of them to him in a sentence from my own perspective. I have only met Colin once and Colin stayed in touch via a few emails over a period of months. But during that time Colin made a good impression on me and I got a good sense of who he is. You could say I ‘got’ his personal brand, values and expertise.

 The chair worked through these candidates and some dropped out (mutual decision) for timing or geographic reasons. Colin connected directly, met and hit it off immediately”

What ‘networks’ have you joined in order to help you learn more about the NED/Trustee world?

Becoming a NED will require me to learn new skills and make different contacts so in early 2013 I joined the FT Non Executive Club and began my quest to find out ‘how you become an NED’ by attending meetings. It was here that I learned that landing your first NED role was harder than landing your first executive role and that you would kiss a lot of frogs on your journey but if you persevere, are determined and fortunate you will find roles that match your skills and interests and you will make a valuable contribution to other businesses.

I am open to joining others in time and thank you for the opportunity to join The Non Exec Hub.

How long has it taken you to find your first role? Share with us a bit about your journey to get to this stage?

I made my mind up at the start of 2013 to find out more about becoming an NED – I then met Bryan who told me that the sooner I started out on that path the better since retiring from an executive role one day and starting an NED role the next is almost impossible and unlikely to be successful.  So it has taken about 6-8 months.

What skills or attributes do you believe you bring to the board over and above what the Executive/Board bring?

Financial, tax, dealing with banks, auditors, insurance brokers, investors, shareholders, working capital management, cost reduction, M&A, general management, commercial / negotiation skills, Board experience, raising finance, governance

To become a Trustee, did you do any extra training or find a mentor to help you? How were they helpful?

Whilst studying at Warwick I have received career advice and the opportunity to have two years free mentoring from an alumni of the university. Meeting these people and being given the opportunity to discussing future plans helped enormously.

What part has you networks / connections played in helping you find this role?

Very significant, I have learned over the years that you must begin planning for your next role the day you start your current role. It is in your current role that you will meet new people who want to do business with you – if you impress them and work professionally with these people they will help you in the future. People still do business with people.

You cannot know too may good people.

What tips would you pass on to someone looking for their first NED / Trustee / Chair role?

I am somewhat of a novice in this respect and perhaps not qualified to answer but if pushed it’s the usual qualities – determination, drive, ambition, do not take setbacks personally. There are roles out there you just need to network into them

Looking back on your journey, is there anything you would do differently to speed up the process of finding a role as a NED/Trustee?

Start sooner, forward-thinking employers should be open to their executives taking on NED roles as long as they are not in competing businesses. It is an opportunity to share ideas, learn best practise.

I could have started in my mid 40s and by now I may have built up a portfolio. That said I am where I am and if you read the above the words lucky or fortunate appear more than once – I feel I have been lucky but I am a follower of the South African golfer Gary Player who was quoted as saying the harder I practise the luckier I get”. In other words you get out of life and business what you are prepared to put in.

Oct 072013

At a time when businesses need to focus on growth why is it that most Non-Executive Directors see their primary role as something else?

Growth businesses need contacts, funding, relationships, coaching, governance, risk management and more. Which of these do or could non-executive directors provide to businesses?

By Bryan Foss and Alison Bond

non-executive directorA recent mini-survey of non-executive directors and CEOs provides at least some insight, but what do the findings mean for what businesses have achieved? What should boards do differently in future when selecting, using and perhaps moving on their non-exec board members? Are non-execs valuable or a costly distraction for a growth business?

Our survey respondees were about 60% ‘primarily Non-Executive Directors and 30% Executives with a Non-Executive Director role, with the final 10% representing prospective Non-Executive Directors, so a very experienced and representative group.

We were initially surprised to see that Non-Executive Directors rated their contribution to the organisations they serve highest on Governance, challenge and risk reduction, which could be considered supportive, or perhaps constraining, in different circumstances. Growth and mentoring came firmly second, with Stability and cost reduction to follow, then finally contacts and funding contributions as the lowest self-ratings.

The respondees considered that the CEO’s they work with have very similar views of the experienced priorities of challenge, governance, risk reduction, growth, mentoring, stability, cost reduction, contacts and funding as delivered by the Non-Executive Directors that they work with.

This tells us that:

  • Non-Executive Directors already know (and are quite comfortable with) their prime time being spent in areas that constrain the business rather than those that grow the business
  • Board and executives are not happy that Non-Executive Directors contribute with sufficient priority in areas such as contacts, funding and growth, but appear to keep replacing their Non-Executive Directors using the same appointment approaches and criteria, expecting things somehow to improve
  • Those businesses that need Non-Executive Director support with growth issues will need to develop different ways to find, brief and engage with new Non-Executive Directors to achieve their goals.

We find these points very worrying. Shareholders expect growth from their investments and Non-Executive Directors are accountable to shareholders. Thinking about the status quo which currently exists in Non-Executive Director appointments, if organisations persist in the current strategy all we will have are stolid, inward looking organisations intent on protecting themselves. This certainly isn't an attitude that matches well with many stages of a company’s growth development and not only will this fail to inspire investors but will stymie talent and innovation and create no new wealth, with all the associated issues this will cause.

Alternatively Non-Executive Directors will be marginalised and ignored as the CEO drives the business to their personal strategy and for the short term, without the board’s proper engagement. Seeing challenge wrapped around governance and risk reduction would make something which could be a positive into a negative. The kind of challenge which aligns with a focus on governance and risk reduction is bound to be inward looking and to an extent judgemental, rather than supportive of the measured risks which drive assured growth and rewards.

After six years of economic constriction organisations need to be looking outward and onwards; at growth and connections, at creativity and developing free thinking. The decade of command and control needs to be replaced with a more empirical and outward focus.

Where the winners will be those who make a positive and visible difference, clearly they have to follow the rules, but that has to be hygiene factor now and not a goal. Any organisation that has to pay people to be on their board just to ensure the rest of the board keeps to the rules has not learnt the lessons of the last decade and will surely be punished for such negligence of opportunity.

Now is the time to use all that has happened to make a difference, to show the market what good really looks like and to build on that to bring the team with them. It is going to need a new look at decision making and possibly some new faces as Non-Executive Directors. It is vital that the last ten years of lessons have not been in vain. To keep looking for those mistakes at the top of organisations rather than at future possibility is frankly missing the point and also the value
of positive governance.

As one respondent commented on the opportunity provided by a well-chosen Non-Executive Director,

‘NEDs bring experience without an agenda and, if the Exec team embrace that without being
threatened, they can access a wealth of support, both personally and commercially’

Bryan Foss & Alison Bond

Bryan Foss is an independent board level advisor, business author, non-executive director
and visiting professor with Bristol Business School.

Alison Bond is an expert researcher and director of www.thehaloworks.com whose aim is to
help the people in their client boards and businesses to be the best that they can.

Jan 232013

Don’t become part of the furniture - Non-executive directors need to move on to stay truly independent

Re-printed from the Sunday Times
Carly Chynoweth Published: 13 January 2013

Bryan Foss - Non-Executive DirectorSix years is plenty and nine years is definitely enough.

Non-executive directors who spend too long on any one board tend to become company insiders and lose their independent edge, says Alan Hindley, chairman of Genius Methods, a board evaluation company.

Partly this is because anyone who stays in one place for a long period can become part of the established order, but it is also connected to the way in which board issues tend to be cyclical. In other words, the longer directors stay on a board, the greater the chance they will have dealt with the same topic many times — and the greater the risk they will deal with it the same way they did before rather than with fresh eyes.

The danger is that tenure breeds over-familiarity — a tendency to act on autopilot.

“You get used to interpreting things in a certain way and you can miss the obvious, whereas someone coming from outside might not,” said Hindley, who chairs three other businesses.

Bryan Foss, a portfolio non-executive director and a visiting professor at Bristol Business School, believes that excessively long tenure raises questions about the composition of the board.

“In any changing organisation, but particularly mid-sized and growth organisations, the board structure needs to change to make sure it has the skills it needs for the next stage it will be going through,” he said.

However, it takes time for Neds to get to know a company well enough to make a real contribution, said Nick Andrews, chief executive of MPAC Group, a firm that advises on regulations and corporate compliance.

“For Neds to be effective, they have to be able to understand and really get into the grain of the organisation . . . in larger, more complex firms, it does take a while because they are not there all the time.

So if their tenure is up just as they have got into the swing of things, he added,

“that is expensive and not what the firm needs. However, when you see a Ned who has been there 10 or 12 years and who has become part of the fabric, everything ticks along — just tick the box. What’s the point?”

Boards need to find a balance between freshness and experience, said Foss.

“You can lose independence of thought with long tenure,” he said. “But it is also important for boards to have continuity. You can’t refresh all the board at once.”

You don’t have to jettison the experience of directors the moment they hit the six or nine-year mark, Hindley said.

“You could make another place for them, perhaps in an advisory role — something that lets you keep them in the circle without affecting the independence of the board.”

Tenure is only one part of the picture. Hindley argues that independence is primarily a character trait.

“It is something that you have or do not have but it is amplified by structure,” he said. “If you are very independent-minded but you are brought on to the board by the chairman, your independence is diminished in people’s perceptions and, arguably, in reality as well.”

On the other hand, Neds with no social or other links with their boards will be outsiders on paper but will still need strength of character to behave independently.

Financial self-sufficiency is helpful in this respect, said Foss, as Neds won’t be reliant on any one board position for income.

“If you have, say, four roles, losing one . . . is bearable, but if you earn significant fees from fewer roles, it puts one in an entirely different position because you are too dependent on that one role.”

Still, there is little point in thinking that independence alone makes a Ned effective, said Andrews, particularly if that Ned lacks the knowledge to ask the right questions.

“Looking for someone just so you can say that he or she is independent is not good.”

An independent streak, though, is vital if non-executives are to perform their roles properly.

"Neds", said Andrews, “should be constantly questioning whether [they] are getting the right information at board level — that it’s not just a repetition of management information and that the information is still relevant. If it’s still in the same framework as five years ago, they’re probably looking at the wrong thing.”

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