Tompkins Wake partners with Board Dynamics as governance expertise demand rises

The first-of-its-kind alliance enhances support to NZ businesses looking to bolster corporate governance

Tompkins Wake partners with Board Dynamics as governance expertise demand rises
Henri Eliot, Jon Calder

Tompkins Wake has taken a 50% interest in Board Dynamics as the COVID-19 pandemic pushes the demand for governance expertise up.

According to Board Dynamics chief executive Henri Eliot, this is the first instance of a law firm in New Zealand has picked up an equity stake in a full-service board advisory firm, although the trend has been observed in the UK and Europe.

“Over the last decade, Board Dynamics has been involved in more than 350 director appointments and worked with hundreds of boards across a multitude of sectors. Henri is internationally recognised and has a strong reputation in the local market, particularly in the board rooms of New Zealand’s largest companies,” Tompkins Wake chief executive Jon Calder explained. “Tompkins Wake also has a strong tier of corporate clients, whose success depends on having the right governance in place. We are looking forward to the skills and expertise Board Dynamics will bring to the table and creating new opportunities for growth together.”

Calder will sit as director at Board Dynamics alongside partner Tom Arieli, who the firm said had been “instrumental” in launching the board advisory venture. Through the alliance, both Board Dynamics and Tompkins Wake clients will be able to access legal and governance services ranging from board evaluation, director recruitment and mediation to advice on director duties, regulatory issues, shareholder agreements and the resolution of board and shareholder disputes.

The partnership comes as New Zealand businesses seek support in bolstering their corporate governance positions following the pandemic’s impact. The past 12 months have been “a real game changer” for Board Dynamics, Eliot said.

“COVID-19 has created uncertainty for businesses, both from an economic and health and wellbeing perspective. It’s forced directors to be more focussed on their businesses’ strategic risk and supporting the CEO and senior management team,” he explained. “More than ever, companies are recognising that their success and resilience depends on having an effective board and a clear strategy in place.”

Boards found themselves reviewing their risk management and senior management support strategies, taking a more active approach to business.

“Companies also started doing more real time reporting. Boards were looking at their financials more often throughout the month, being more hands on and making operational decisions together with the management team,” Eliot said. “Every risk management strategy talks about a ‘force majeure’, but we never think of a pandemic. It was new to everyone. It has forced boards to get together, look at where their skill gaps were and start replacing members that aren’t pulling their weight around the table.”

In order for a board to be effective today, he said that boards must have directors who possess “diversity of thought, clear, strategic thinking, and experience that's current – not 10 or 20 years old.”

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