60 seconds with… Jim Pettigrew

Chair of the board

3 min read

Jim Pettigrew is Chairman of the Edinburgh Investment Trust, a NED at Aberdeen Asset Management, Royal Bank of Canada, AON, Pacific Investments, Clydesdale Bank and Hermes Fund Managers. He is also a Council Member of ICAS and former CFO of ICAP.

What changes would you make to UK boardrooms to make them more effective?

Information overload is a real problem, so, first of all, I’d overhaul the information boards receive. Of course, there are certain regulatory requirements that need to be met but this shouldn’t result in endless reams of paper being sent up to the board. More information doesn’t equal better corporate governance; it just makes it harder to see the wood for the trees.

As well as improving the information, I’d also emphasise the importance of a high-quality executive team. The chairman has a significant role to play but the most crucial thing for any organisation or board is the quality of its management. And it’s important to remember that the NEDs are there to provide support, as well as challenge, to the executives. Securing an environment of trust and openness is far more effective than banging fists.

Has the way boards operate changed much in the last few years?

Regulation has undoubtedly brought about change for the better. Directors are far more aware of their responsibilities than a decade or so ago and no board that I’ve sat on recently has had somebody more excited about the club lunch than the discussion.

How could, or should, the role of the Company Secretary evolve to better support the board?

As someone whose first job was as a Company Secretary, I’m a great champion of their work. They have a crucial role to play in ensuring board papers are timely and of the right quality, and in designing the annual board calendar. Good minute taking is also a key responsibility; it’s essential this is done well because you only need one slip in the minutes to mistakenly alert the FSA!

How will the UK’s global influence change over the next decade?

It has been getting worse for some time. The balance of power has been shifting from west to east, and I fear this will continue whether we like it or not. Just as the UK’s size was once distorted on the world map, I think we’ve over-inflated our significance on the global stage and if we aren’t careful, we will be caught off-guard. We need to move away from the sense of our own entitlement and start matching the east’s appetite for progress and change.

What single government policy change would you like to make to support British enterprise?

I’d reduce the burden of taxation and regulation in a correct and proportionate manner to promote growth, growth and more growth!

Which companies would you back for the next decade?

Those that embrace technology and globalisation.

How has your ICAS training supported you in your career?

The Chartered Accountant training is fantastic so I’m proud to be a Council Member of ICAS and supporting the next generation of Chartered Accountants. As an auditor, you become adept at getting to grips with a new organisation very quickly and sensing the health, or otherwise, of the culture. This is an invaluable skill to have throughout one’s career – especially as a NED.

What is the smartest business decision you’ve made or witnessed?

Deciding to join ICAP in 1998. I had two offers on the table: one was from a successful FTSE and the other was from ICAP (then Garban), which was at the time a little known company with uncertain prospects. But it appealed to me because it was small yet global. In hindsight, I can’t in all honesty credit the decision to tremendous powers of foresight. Luck certainly played its part, but it was an excellent decision and one I’m proud to have made.

What is your golden rule?

I have 5!

  1. Have a business strategy that can be easily understood and communicated;
  2. Keep things simple;
  3. Remember that cash is king;
  4. Embrace technology and globalisation;
  5. Have fun and be enthusiastic in what you do.

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