Six Questions NXDs Must Ask in the Digital Age

  • Thought Leadership

Article in full from Scottish Business Insider, July 25th 2019

By Judy Wagner, FWB Park Brown

Non-executive directors in every sector must join the data revolution to keep up.

The demands on non-executive directors – NXDs – have never been greater as they are held accountable for organisation performance.

Business activity in many sectors is being revolutionised by Data-Driven Innovation (DDI), including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, and it is imperative that NXDs understand them to make informed decisions.

The University of Edinburgh Business School/FWB Park Brown Non-Executive Director Programme has been designed to equip NXDs with a level of understanding that will allow them to accept board positions with confidence. Particularly important for NXDs are the emergence of various ethical issues.

Key considerations that NXDs need to consider are:

  • What are the ethical issues of the ‘data revolution’?
  • How should data-driven organisations respond to these issues?
  • What is the regulatory landscape for dealing with these issues?
  • Are ethical principles and codes of practice sufficient?
  • How can public trust be maintained in this environment?
  • What is the role of the NXD in ensuring strong ethical standards are implemented and maintained?

Assessing responses to such questions will require informed and reflective NXDs who have been exposed to real-life issues and been able to consider appropriate responses.

This will require a sound understanding of ethics in general and the new landscape created by the data revolution. This will in turn allow informed NXDs to stress-test existing codes of practice by asking appropriate questions and even setting scenarios to inform board discussions.

The Non-Executive Director Programme will provide exposure to real-life case studies and probing questions that will allow participants to develop a workable framework of understanding that can form the basis for the creation of codes of practice that are fit for purpose.

NXDs are expected to hold the board and senior management to account in all aspects of performance. Given the importance of acting ethically, ensuring that decisions are made with an appropriate degree of transparency and good judgement is vital if damage is not to be done to stakeholders and the reputation of the organisation.

In particular, NXDs play a primary role in protecting shareholder investment. Further, NXDs are increasingly being held to account as to how they fulfil this role. It is therefore incumbent upon them to learn what is expected of them, and to develop the skills and experience to allow them to function effectively.

Our speakers on ethics include Norman Murray, former chairman of Edrington and Petrofac, and who founded the ethics board of ICAS, and Prof Charles Raab, a member of the Alan Turing Institute Data Ethics Group.

Murray underlined the importance of the NXD in ensuring strong ethical standards – “Over my 20 years as an NXD with public and private companies as well as charitable and professional organisations, my experience is that the principles of demonstrating  proper ethical behaviour, promoting a transparent culture and leadership through the tone at the top are seen as the benchmarks for good corporate governance.

“When NXDs understand these principles the sense of empowerment they give will add much credibility to the organisation both internally and externally.”

Full details of the programme are available within the 2019 information brochure

Delegates can register for sessions here.

For further information please contact:
Professor John Amis
University of Edinburgh Business School

t: +44 131 651 5545

Judy Wagner CA
Director, FWB Park Brown

t: +44 131 539 7087

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