Adi Bongo and Alfred Akakpo presented updates on two oft discussed aspects of board structure and composition: board size and board diversity.
Bongo's paper considered data from Nigeria—his home country—to understand whether an optimal board size was apparent amongst listed companies. Previous studies have shown mixed results: some have suggested a positive correlation; some a negative correlation; and, some have shown no impact on performance. I was interested to see whether Bongo's research, which applied three different econometric methods would reveal anything new or different. The answer was no. Despite applying analysing the data in three different ways, Bongo found no evidence that board size has any impact on the financial performance of companies in Nigeria.
Akakpo's paper explored the impact of diversity on board performance amongst companies in the retail sector in the UK. Using data from 2000–2012, Akakpo applied a range of analytical tools. His analysis showed a positive association between diversity and company performance in 46% of the companies studied, a negative association in 13% of the companies and nil or no discernible impact in the remaining 41% of the companies. Whereas other studies have suggested that diversity is generally good, Akakpo's study showed that a positive impact is certainly not automatic.
These studies add to the body of research that has investigated board attributes. I was hoping to hear suggestions of how or why board size or diversity might lead to increased performance, but such commentary was not forthcoming. These studies reinforce the impasse that confronts researchers; and the proposition that research methods other than the statistical analysis of quantitative data are likely to be necessary if the goal is to explain how boards influence company performance outcomes.
Thoughts on corporate purpose, strategy and governance; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.