Accounting firm PwC has just released its 2014 survey of investor perspectives and board performance. You can get a copy here. The survey findings indicate that investors are generally happy with some things and less so with others. Here are the top points:
The report makes good reading. In all likelihood, it provides an accurate summary of what investors currently think (or at say they think—this is a survey after all). On the flip side, the most surprising and, frankly, most disheartening news is that investors are most interested in visible attributes (gender, composition, et al) and activities (assess, oversee) of boards. These findings suggest that if the board conforms with certain structural and composition 'requirements' and that boards do certain things, then investors are happy.
My experience—gained as an investor, a company director and a corporate governance researcher—tells me that the top priority for boards should be company performance. However it is not mentioned in the report. The only item that comes close is the satisfaction in the way boards assess strategy—and yet most boards that I've observed or sat on spend most of their time monitoring and controlling the Chief Executive! Do investors, who typically do not attend board meetings, really know if or how boards assess strategy?
From these findings at least, it would seem that company performance and value creation (growth) is not that important to investors. Is that the reality? If it is, then investors are too easily satisfied. However, if investors are interested in company performance (I think they are, they probably just didn't say so in the survey), then they need to appoint directors whose top priority is to drive business performance, in order to assure a positive return to the very investors that put them there.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.