Advisory Board Advantages

For aspiring non-executive directors, advisory boards offer an ideal platform to build the skills and expertise needed for a portfolio career. Indeed, participating on these types of boards is an opportunity to engage with companies on a strategic level but without the legal responsibilities and liabilities of a NED. As Bob Mann, CEO for Foundation Network and member of various advisory boards explains, "The advisory board member receives knowledge of and access to different industries, which adds to their experiences and increases their value as a NED. The style required is very much consultative and advisory rather than operational, so you have to make sure you have a voice to add real value."

From an organisation's perspective, advisory boards have two primary benefits. As Ian Ryder, Deputy Chief Executive for the British Computer Society, explains: "The first benefit is a clear contribution to governance for even though advisory board members have no direct responsibility, the fact that they are included in the governance process is a major positive. The second benefit is access to skills and experience that otherwise would not be available." In short, an advisory board is an informal group of people who can help improve the performance of the business but because they have no fiduciary responsibility and their advice is non-binding, there is a lot of flexibility in setting them up.

The Science Museum, for example, uses advisory boards for each of the museums within the National Museum of Science and Industry, as well as for specific projects and exhibitions. Molly Jackson, Director for The Science Museum comments, "These boards allow us to tap in to external expertise and gain fresh perspectives on the projects we are working on. To be successful, organisations have to make sure that individuals on these panels are fully engaged and involved in the work they are advising on."

Criticaleye also has its own advisory board, run by Charlie Wagstaff, Managing Director, which is an important part of how we engage with members. As Charlie explains, "An advisory board should be part of any organisation's customer engagement strategy. In the current climate, where customers needs have changed radically, an advisory board enables us to be more in touch with the dynamics of a rapidly evolving marketplace."

Clearly, there has got to be benefits on both sides. Jeremy Small, Group Company Secretary, AXA UK and member of Criticaleye's own advisory board, offers this advice, "It's important to strike a balance for both parties. While the benefits to the company include being able to access objective advice and experience, the benefits to the members of an advisory board tend to relate to new ideas and perspectives that they might not experience otherwise, along with the opportunity to expand their own networks. It can be an ideal way to see what it might be like to be a non-executive director, especially as the relationship will hopefully be that of a mentor or sounding board and allow feedback both ways to hone the essential skills that are needed."

Charlie Wagstaff expands on this, "On our advisory board, participants get to engage at a level which will help them either build skills to help achieve NED roles or, if they already have NEDships, build upon their existing portfolio." Molly Jackson adds to this by saying, "We always make sure our advisory boards benefit the individuals involved as much as the museum. We don't pay board members so it is crucial that they get a lot out of it in terms of connecting with their fellow members and really getting 'behind the scenes' with the issues they are advising on."

Advisory Board Advantages Events

For those of you embarking on a portfolio career, Criticaleye's regular Aspiring Non-Executive Directors dinners are a great opportunity to hear from seasoned NEDs and get best practice advice on building your portfolio career.

Advisory Board Advantages Insights

Also see some of Criticaleye's thought-leadership on this subject including What Makes an Exceptional Non-Executive Director and the Write-up of one of our recent breakfasts for existing non-executives, Inspiring NEDs - Breakfast.

Matthew Blagg, CEO, Criticaleye