By Maggi Lim with additional reporting by Sng Ler Jun
On 15 Sep 2022, more than 800 local and overseas delegates consisting of directors and leaders from various entities attended the SID Directors Conference 2022. Themed Directors in a 4 D World, the annual conference was organised by the Singapore Institute of Directors (SID). Held physically for the first time in two years, the conference touched on four main themes: Digital, Decentralised, Decarbonised, Diverse.
In his opening address, Minister for Transport and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations Mr Iswaran commented that strong leadership is required to face the challenges brought about in the changes in the geopolitical situation, shifting world demographics, global economic uncertainty, and climate change.
“We can no longer take for granted the international system that has been the basis for global order, peace and growth,” he said. “Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and flaring tensions between the US and China, highlight the fragility, complexity and volatility of today’s geopolitical environment.”
Amid these headwinds, the role of directors in organisations has evolved to become even more challenging. In addition to risk management, directors have to look into creating values to ensure the long-term sustainability of the enterprise amidst constant business disruption, be it commercial companies, statutory boards or non-profit organisations.
In her opening address, Chairperson of SID Ms Wong Su-Yen highlighted three key board room issues – Digital, Talent, and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) – that leaders should focus on in their organisations.
Whilst digital transformation is a process of continuous improvement that evolves over time to meet both external and internal stakeholders’ needs, digitalisation is no longer about buying a new software and introducing it to the company. In transforming the way we live and work, digitalisation is also about having someone learning and knowing the software, and being able to “customise” things to ensure business sustainability.
Mr Chng Kai Fong, Second Permanent Secretary for Smart National and Digital Government Office, shared his views during a panel discussion that decarbonisation, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality or reduce carbon dioxide emissions, is the most challenging and urgent issue for organisations to address. He added that organisations must not overlook on cybersecurity threats as they embrace digitalisation.
Having diversity on the board to compliment the executive team was another salient point highlighted during the conference. The lack of diversity can result in a ‘think-alike’ board, void of well-rounded perspectives. A diverse board should not only entail both gender and ethnicity groups, it should also incorporate members of varied experiences and skillsets.
During the keynote dialogue, Mr Loh Chin Hua, CEO and Executive Director of Keppel Corporation, shared that modern-day employees expect to be led by genuine leaders, and not bosses. In order to retain talents, it is important for leaders to relate to employees. He said: "(Leaders) need to keep the needs of the employees, such as work-life harmony, at the heart of the business”.
Many directors will agree that boardroom leadership will face one of the most challenging periods in the history of corporate governance with volatility, uncertainty, disruption and risk in the foreseeable future. It is hence imperative for the directors to help management to be prepared, strengthen their oversight of risk and at the same time, look for new opportunities.