60 seconds with… Baroness Prashar

Chair of the board

2 min read

Baroness Prashar is a member of the Iraq Inquiry, President of the National Literacy Trust, the former Chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission and has served as a NED at Channel 4, ITV and the Cabinet Office.

What would you change to make UK boardrooms more effective?

Boards should pay closer attention to the implementation of strategy and to people issues. Boards tend to engage with the setting of strategy but it’s the implementation that matters in the end and that will be driven by the people. Developments in the wider marketplace should also be given greater consideration by the board. Innovation and new technology shape the future and it’s important that the board makes time to go off-site to consider the bigger picture.

Have boards changed in the last three years?

Expectations on the non-executive have increased in recent years and boards are working harder than ever. However, I fear the recent crisis has made boards too risk averse. Innovation and creativity have taken a back seat to risk management and compliance; boards need to get that balance right. What should the role of the Company Secretary be? The Company Secretary is crucial to the smooth running of the board and a good Company Secretary is worth their weight in gold. But their ability to add value will in part be driven by how they are perceived by the board.

What government policy would you change to support British enterprise?

It’s not one thing but three: I’d establish a better tax regime for enterprise, provide better support for SMEs, and raise our investment in education.

How will the UK’s global influence change?

The UK’s influence is already changing with the growth of the emerging markets and it is not necessarily to our detriment. The UK is in a good position with strong links to the EU and to the Commonwealth and of course the English language is very helpful. We need to get better at capitalising on our advantage by developing our export markets especially in the creative industries and innovation, where we are already strong.

What companies or sectors would you invest in?

New technology, creative industries and investments related to the environment.

What is the smartest business decision you’ve witnessed?

Terry Leahy unveiling the “The Tesco Way” in 1997. The values, principles and goals shifted to the employees and customers.

What book is on your bedside table?

The autobiography of Condoleezza Rice, ‘No Higher Honor’.

What is your golden rule?

I have several: whatever you do, do it for the right reasons; always remain true to yourself and your values; and it’s important to be both a thinker and a doer.

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