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Boards & Governance

Board Monitor Europe

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The world’s largest British, French, and German companies filled 216 vacant board seats with independent directors in 2016. Few leadership positions are more consequential: these boards oversee companies in the top three European countries by GDP.

These newly appointed directors will be joining their boards at a time of considerable turmoil globally and in the region. This includes such pressing issues as the uncertain future of UK–EU trade arrangements, the rise of protectionism in many countries around the world, and rising geopolitical tensions. For European companies, these developments could mean disruption in capital flows, supply chains, and global trade strategies. At the same time, their boards must continually ensure that they are composed of members who together constitute the right mix of competencies to address the current period of increasing volatility, without losing sight of long-term strategy.

To provide a picture of the continuing evolution of European boards, Heidrick & Struggles has inaugurated Board Monitor Europe, a projected series of annual reports designed to provide profiles of new independent directors and track changes in those profiles in the coming years.1

Our analysis surfaced the following key findings:

  • Of the 216 new independent seats on the boards of FTSE 100, CAC 40, and DAX 30 companies, 70% went to current and former CEOs and CFOs.
  • Some 164, or 76%, of those seats were filled by directors with previous board experience.
  • Of those 216 seats, 95, or 44%, went to women.
  • Only 3 of the 216 seats were filled by appointees with experience in cyberrisk, and only 25 by appointees with digital or social media experience.
  • Some 104, or 48%, of new seats went to foreign-born appointees.
  • The percentage of foreign-born appointees varied widely by country—from a high of 52% in the United Kingdom to 47% in France and 36% in Germany.
  • In the United Kingdom, the largest share of new appointees (36%) went to consumer company boards. In France, the largest share (37%) went to industrial companies, and in Germany, the largest share (50%) also went to industrial companies.
  • Overall, the largest share of total substantial industry experiences lay in the financial services sector, at 26%.

To learn about these and other findings in more detail, flip through the interactive report above or click the download button for the PDF.


1 By “independent” we mean those directors who primarily represent shareholders, whether they serve on supervisory boards in a two-tier board structure or on a unitary board, and excludes company executives and employee and government representatives.

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