On being an effective Non-Executive Director | Marianne Loner, Non-Executive Director
The Better Boards Podcast Series
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The Better Boards Podcast Series
On being an effective Non-Executive Director | Marianne Loner, Non-Executive Director
Nov 02, 2023 Season 3 Episode 99
Dr Sabine Dembkowski

One of the most frequently asked questions to Better Boards is “What does it take to be an effective Non-Executive Director?”  This podcast will shed some light on the topic.

In this podcast, Dr. Sabine Dembkowski, Founder and Managing Director of Better Boards, discusses how to be an effective Non-Executive Director with Marianne Loner. Marianne spent 35 years in an executive career in investment banking, commercial lending, and asset management in London, New York, Chicago, and Zurich with global organizations.  For the past 12 years, she has served on Boards in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe.

“Time flies when you are having fun!”
Marianne takes her work on boards very seriously but says there’s no doubt that after a long and successful executive career, it has been very enjoyable to bring her expertise to the companies she serves. She chooses to focus on emerging markets so that she can quickly make a visible difference with ESG and economic development in multiple countries.

“If you’re in one industry, you end up having very strong content”
Marianne says that while she works all around the world, by keeping her focus on one industry – financial services – she is able to be more effective. She can come into a company with a deep understanding of the regulatory frameworks, the competitive environment, and how firms can make the changes needed to innovate and be truly client-focused.

“No one country has a monopoly on best practices”
Marianne explains that governance and best practices can be very different between countries, which board members who stay in one region or country miss out on experiencing. Thanks to her global focus, she is able to make connections and see how different policies play out in different cultural and economic environments. This gives her a unique perspective.

“Have a clear idea of what you bring to the party”
To be an effective Non-Executive Director, Marianne feels that board members should have a clear picture of what they’re bringing to the role. How are you being expected to contribute? What role do you play in the dynamics of the board, in the decision-making, and in the company culture? Marianne recommends new Non-Executive Directors spend time actively listening and gaining an understanding of the company so that they can develop an effective personal strategy for influencing and shaping decisions, strategies, and tactics. 

“I read the entire pack, even footnotes!”
Board effectiveness depends on adequate preparation. Marianne has seen boards where members are not reading all the materials being provided, which she feels places them at a disadvantage in their contribution. For her, to be an effective contributor, it is vital to read every part of board packets, with a special focus on matters arising. 

“Hindsight is important for tackling issues that are still unresolved”
Marianne knows that the mandate for board members is to provide insight, oversight, and foresight. However, when issues aren’t resolved, hindsight can be useful, provided that the whole board meeting isn’t consumed by hindsight. 

The three top takeaways from our conversation for effective boards are:
1.      You cannot operate in a vacuum. To be effective, spend the time to build relationships with other board members and management.
    Silence does not serve the business. Have courage and stand up for what you think is right.
    To be effective, understand the details of the business but let management do their job so that you can keep a strategic focus and long-term viewpoint.