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PhD governance group projects

Board of Directors, Shareholder Engagement and Director Independence

The importance of shareholder engagement and the “market for corporate influence” has escalated over recent years. This is not at least due to the greater stewardship responsibilities demanded from institutional investors, exemplified by the UK Stewardship Code and the recent amendments to it. In addition, expectations are raised for corporate managers and directors to more proactively engage with their shareholder and other stakeholders. For instance, the BEIS Parliamentary Select Committee’s Corporate Governance Report (published in April 2017) advocates improvements in the dialogue between companies and investors, e.g. through the creation of stakeholder advisory panels and annual reporting on how companies conduct their engagement with stakeholders. However, in its 2016 annual corporate director survey, PWC finds that while director engagement has become more frequent over recent years – of 884 surveyed directors of public companies, 54% state that their board is involved in direct engagement with investors – not all corporate directors view this engagement as beneficial with 21% reporting that they did not receive any valuable insights from the engagement with investors. Why do many directors see little or no value in investor engagement? How director’s / board independence affects or is affected by shareholder engagement? What is the role of the chairman in board-shareholder engagement?

The successful candidate will work alongside his/her supervisors as well as with other team colleagues in existing research projects looking into board directors, shareholder engagement and director independence. A team approach is undertaken within Governance group. The successful candidate will be exposed to and engage with board directors and senior management across different sectors, and support the production of research reports, papers and other publications, as well as support teaching and administration.

Governance Innovation for Emergent Hybrid Entities

Most recently, the ‘internet of all things’ and ‘industry 4.0’ is shaping a novel, yet more interconnected and decentralised governance landscape. The organisation as an entity and its purpose are moving quickly towards emerging forms of a cyber-physical relationship. Firm Innovation is being driven by human - technological solutions which are increasingly shaping and influencing the nature of business and consumer, product and market innovations in emerging hybrid economies e.g. bitcoins; social media; online shopping; mobile apps; green economy. All are changing the competitive and strategic landscape of traditional organisations and their industries.

This brings to attention what are the governance mechanisms and leadership characteristics of top teams and boards in their judgements and decision making for Industry 4.0. How does the organisation continuously adapt- collapse and reform in such hybrid co-evolving platforms, and across different regional contexts? More specifically what are the skills and capabilities that the next generation of board directors require for Industry 4.0 or in these new emerging shared economies? What are the triggers for innovation and growth, whilst what are the causes of tension, conflict and failure? The demands on the board at the apex of the organisation (private or public) further translates to designing broader transparency and shaping privacy as forms of accountabilities and responsibilities.

More specifically research may focus on the Chair-CEO relationship or the Non-Executive Director in being able to independently contribute at board level in this innovation and governance context. How can the NED effectively contribute to the board in Industry 4.0 enterprises? How should the director and board role evolve? Is it at risk of redundancy ahead?