Current challenges facing businesses and their boards

Interview with Anne Bobillier, independent Board member and governance consultant.

In an interview, Hélène Béguin, chairwoman of the Board of Directors of KPMG Switzerland, asked Anne Bobillier, independent Board member and governance consultant, to talk about her career and the current topics that are important for businesses and their Boards, but also about the place of women within the latter.

Hélène Béguin

Chairwoman of the Board of Directors, Audit Partner

KPMG Switzerland

Hélène Béguin: In 2014, you became the first female member of the Board of Directors of Skyguide. What do you remember about this first role, something that struck you in particular when you joined this first Board? What challenges did you face?

Anne Bobillier: There were many challenges. When I started at Skyguide, I was immediately appointed chairwoman of a committee. I had no experience as Board member and least of all as chairwoman of a committee, the “Project” committee. I was well accepted by the members, but since I had been chosen because I was a woman, it took 3 or 4 Board meetings to overcome some reservations.

Thereafter, as in any Board, things depend largely on the chairperson, on the group dynamics. The “Project” committee is particular; as far as I know, such a committee does not exist anywhere else. It monitors all of the company’s major projects. I tried to do my best, as I had learned – and this is where training is very useful – and my technology skills helped me a lot. In fact, I had been recruited mainly for these skills. In any new environment, new group, one must prove oneself, take one’s place. 

You lead the nomination and compensation committee at Romande Energie. To what extent was the latter impacted over the last 20 months due to the crisis we have just been through? 

The nomination and compensation committee is the committee that exchanges the most with human resources. Naturally, the COVID-19 crisis had an impact, but not really on nominations or compensation. It concerned rather the monitoring of the crisis, the impact on the employees’ health, ensuring that actions are in line with the directives.

Nominations were not called into question, because needs are defined by the strategy, and the COVID-19 crisis did not have a significant impact either on compensation, except maybe on certain variable elements. In any case, not in the Boards I am part of.

One does not take on such a role by ambition, but by conviction. I believe that one accepts the role of chairperson because one has the skills to guide the company and take part in its development.

There is much talk about diversity. I prefer to focus on the mix between the individuals who form a group within management or a Board. How would you define an appropriate mix or appropriate diversity?

For me, diversity is multifold. Of course, there is gender diversity, which is much talked about, but diversity must also be ensured as regards competences, experiences and cultures. In companies active in Switzerland, regional representation is crucial. At international level, it means representing the significant markets in which a company operates.

An appropriate mix is also beneficial as regards age/experience. If there are only old hands, these might sometimes lack a bit of naivety or modernity, in the positive sense, when making decisions. Diversity consists in ensuring an appropriate balance between all these elements. But if I must focus on one in particular, it is competence.

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Current challenges facing businesses and their Boards

Current challenges facing businesses and their Boards

Interview with Anne Bobillier, member of the Board of Directors of companies such as Skyguide

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