The boardroom is getting younger

Boardrooms used to be crowded with retired executives at the pinnacle of their career. Not any more. 'Portfolio careers', made up of several part-time or freelance responsibilities, are now increasingly popular with people in their forties or fifties.

Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

The interest in non-executive positions is such that the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) organised a seminar on the subject, which was attended by 70 people.

Jan Buck, research manager for KPMG executive research, observes that the change comes with a shift in job responsibilities. "In the old model, you used to work until 65 and then retire, and the statutory retirement age was 72 so you had seven years of boards and the pace of change was pleasant enough," she explains.

"Now the pace of change is going through the roof and people want to come onto boards at 50 or so, but they have to keep themselves relevant, because you are no longer in a position to be learning what is going on out there in the business world in a senior management role."

Lynn Wood, who sits on the boards of HSBC Bank Australia and the Foreign Investment Review, says that board positions appeal to men and women seeking a better work/life balance. "A portfolio career, including board positions, offers flexibility and variety, with the added attraction of being able to contribute at the top level."

Buck's tip for young executives to get on the non-executive side of the fence is to cultivate networks. But candidates should also have a proven track record. "What boards are looking for boils down to a mix of skills, and those skills can be financial, legal, marketing or management-based."

Wood also advises aspiring board members to start early. "You can volunteer for roles as a non-executive director in other organisations, which could include charities or government advisory boards."

Participants also agreed that MBAs were generally a good qualification when seeking non-executive positions, as it provided broad business expertise and a good network.

Source: Changing face of boards draws strong interest
Lachlan Colquhoun
AGSM Magazine

Review by Emilie Filou

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