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Boards must save themselves from drowning in information

Ever-bigger meeting papers are preventing boards from operating properly, according to ICAEW. A new report, Information overload: effective boards and committees in financial services, suggests the increasing volume of information has reached such a scale that it is undermining team work, the ability to make good decisions and prevents boards from becoming more diverse and inclusive.

Zsuzsanna Schiff, author of the report, said: “Board packs are often more than one thousand pages long – containing vast information on compliance, risk and finances when boards should be focused on strategy. The tension that exists, particularly in financial services, between collective decision making and individual responsibility is exacerbated when board members cannot see the wood for the trees.”

Following a series of interviews and a review of research, ICAEW concludes that boards are not victims of this overload, and must do something about it. They can take action to improve governance through following the recommendations in this report.

Philippa Kelly, ICAEW’s head of Financial Services, said: “Assuming people will continue to cope with the status quo means board positions remain the preserve of those who know how to play the game. Financial services firms need to attract new blood and different points of view but information overload puts people off and can get in the way of seeing the bigger picture.”

The report explores how boards can decrease reliance on experts and restore collective responsibility, which empowers a more diverse array of individuals to join boards, making them truly inclusive.

 The guide, Information overload: effective boards and committees in financial services, is available here.