Board Search Code

Watermark Search International is completely aligned with Recommendation 8 of the UK-based Davies Report. Equally we support the AICD’s call for boards to ensure that 30% (more than the 25% called for in the Davies report) of their directors are female by 2018.

The Davies report proposes that the executive search community draw up a voluntary code of conduct to address gender diversity on corporate boards and best practice for the related search processes.

The Report proposes challenging targets for improving the representation of women on the boards. Watermark Search is committed to help our clients increase the effectiveness of their boards and we acknowledge the value that diversity can bring. We also believe that the diversity conversation would benefit from shifting to being primarily about gender to being about diversity in a much broader sense.

We strongly endorse the important role that executive search needs to play in supporting chairs and nominations committees as they take steps to increase the diversity of their boards, in both the private and public sector.

The Watermark Board Search Code, outlined below, lays out steps that we follow throughout the search process, from accepting a brief through to final induction.

Watermark Search International Board Process

  • Succession Planning: We support chairs and their nomination committees in developing medium-term succession plans that identify the balance of experience and skills that they will need to recruit for over the next two to three years to maximise board effectiveness. This time frame will allow a broader view to be established by looking at the whole board, not individual hires; this should facilitate increased flexibility in candidate specifications.
  • Skills Matrix: We will work with the board members to devise a skills matrix that is suitable for inclusion in the annual report. This helps identifies potential areas in which to concentrate when inviting new directors to join the board.
  • Diversity Goals: When taking a specific brief, we look at overall board composition and, in the context of the board’s agreed goals on gender balance and diversity more broadly, explore with the chair if recruiting women directors is a priority on this occasion.
  • Defining Briefs: In defining briefs, we work to ensure that significant weight is given to relevant skills and intrinsic personal qualities and not just proven career experience, in order to extend the pool of candidates beyond those with existing board roles or conventional corporate careers.
  • Long lists: When presenting long lists, we strive to ensure that at least 30% of the candidates are women – and, if not, we explicitly justify to the client why there are no other qualified female options by demonstrating the scope and rigour of our research.
  • Supporting Candidates: During the selection process, we provide appropriate support to candidates, in particular to first-time candidates, to prepare them for interviews and guide them through the process.
  • Emphasising Intrinsic Value: As clients evaluate candidates, we ensure that we continue to provide appropriate weight to intrinsic factors, supported by thorough referencing, rather than over-valuing certain kinds of experience.
  • Induction: provide advice, and when required assist establish the process, to clients on best practice in induction and ‘onboarding’ processes to help new board directors settle quickly into their roles.