Day one at National Conference — a day of disruption

Attendees sitting in conference auditorium

What a day! Governance at a time of disruption. Disrupt we did on the opening day of Governance Institute’s 2017 National Conference. In its warp and weft, in its style, in its rhythm, this was clearly a National Conference that has refreshed itself and drawn energy from its theme.

We kicked off with our First Timers’ Networking Breakfast, with speaker Justin Huber, Chief Executive Officer, Baseball Victoria and Former Major League Baseball Player. His is a life and career where disruption shaped his leadership and influence on Australian baseball. His key learning was: understand what success and failure really mean and how to measure your own success.

Our record number of delegates then gathered for the jaw-dropping official opening — the governance beatboxing extravaganza! Genesis set the pace for a day, which continued to break the mould.

After a video message from Minister Kelly O'Dwyer reinforcing the government’s commitment to governance reform, our first international speaker of the conference, Mats Isaksson, Head of the Corporate Affairs Division, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), kicked off the day’s proceedings by challenging us to think about how corporate governance principles and standards of practice are changing in the new global economic order. He then joined a panel including Mukund Narayanmurti, Chief Executive Officer, Asialink Business, John Price, Commissioner, ASIC, and Kate Spargo, Non-executive Director, Sigma Healthcare to unpack some of the key indicators for Australia — not only globally, but also in the context of our strategic positioning in the regional geo-economic landscape and the implications for corporate governance reform.

John Price noted that Australia is a good exemplar of corporate governance in the Asian region, and Kate highlighted that trust is evidenced by behaviour over time — enabling organisations to attract the right staff, right suppliers and right customers.

Morning tea was abuzz with anticipation for the day ahead, for which the high energy opening had set the tone. Networking was in full swing. Delegates were also drawn to the exhibition area that featured the stands of our key partners and exhibitors who offer some of Australia and the world’s leading corporate governance services and technology. We also donned our headphones for the first of our live silent demonstrations from our Gold Sponsor LexisNexis.

Then it was time for the deep dive. Four concurrent streams offered delegates an opportunity to delve into areas of particular professional interest and expertise, all held together with the common threads  disruption and innovation.

Kyle Loades, President and Chair of NRMA has been one of our most transformative business leaders. He has led what was a traditional membership-based organisation to respond to the innovations that were changing the face of the sector. Kyle reminded us that it is possible to fast track transformation via effective partnerships with external innovators, giving delegates a fascinating view into the success of NRMA’s partnership with Australia’s number one accelerator, Slingshot.

In the ASX stream that followed, Catherine Maxwell FGIA, Director Policy & Advocacy, Governance Institute of Australia, Dr Simon Longstaff, Executive Director, The Ethics Centre, Dr Stefan Peij, Managing Director, Governance University (The Netherlands), and Charles Macek, Chairman, Vivid Technology Ltd & Earthwatch Institute of Australia, discussed how a focus on compliance can lead to a tick-the-box culture. Organisations must step beyond the need to just 'not do wrong' and build an ethical framework that empowers and enables staff to make responsible decisions to do the right things.

Margaret Foley, Director of Sales and Customer Success Asia Pacific, IntelligenceBank,  Elizabeth Jameson, Managing Director, Board Matters, and Andrew Donovan, Principal, Thoughtpost Governance tackled the idea of governance disruption: a time for board disruption in which the board’s role in driving success through decision-making, assumes the board has good judgment. Good judgment comes down to board composition and culture.

The plenary reconvened after afternoon tea for a robust discussion on digital risk. The the panel discussed the question: Consumer protection and data innovation — are they compatible? We heard from Whit Lee, Executive Director, Strategy & Legal Software Solutions, LexisNexis Asia Pacific (USA), Susan Bennett FGIA, Principal, Sibenco Legal & Advisory, Director & Co-founder, Information Governance ANZ, Brian Ferreira GIA(Cert), Vice President, Executive Programs ANZ, Gartner and Dottie Schindlinger, Governance Technology Evangelist, Diligent Corporation (USA).

The panel highlighted the need to understand your customer and made us question: Are we managing data in a way your customers find transparent and trustworthy? Discussion included the insight that clear communication on the purpose for obtaining consumers’ information is critical. The more they understand your use, the more likely they’ll be willing to share. This makes you a more trusted organisation — which is a market differentiator. They also suggested you make digital risk a strategic item, and ensure the board is talking about data issues regularly. 

Which brought us then to the highly anticipated and timely international address on Hybrid Economy, delivered by Professor Sir Julian Le Grand, Marshall Institute for Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship, London School of Economics. Sir Julian was here thanks to the efforts our session sponsor Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals. At a time when state and market economies on their own are perceived to have failed, Sir Julian spoke of a time when profit and social impact must go hand in hand.

The conversation was extended for a timely discussion on the mutuals sector with Judith  Downes, Chair, Bank Australia, Melina Morrison, Chief Executive Officer, Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals and Peter Promnitz, Chairman, Australian Unity Ltd. This was a critical discussion to end the day on as Australia enters into a phase of robust reform and disruption for its mutuals sector with huge implications for governance in the wake of the Hammond Review.

With the sessions wrapped up for day one, it was time to start the celebrations. Governance Institute's President Andrew Horne announced our President's Award winners and our Life Membership Award recipient for 2017, in what he termed the 'governance Logies'.

Congratulation to our award recipients:

  • Jason Harris FGIA  President’s Award recipient
  • Diane Smith-Gander FGIA — President’s Award recipient 
  • Bill te Kloot FGIA — Life Membership Award recipient. 

Then came our disruptive social event! I don’t think our National Conference has ever had anything quite like the New Orleans cocktail networking party. We certainly brought Bourbon Street to Melbourne, complete with a band, beads, gumbo and a very entertaining duo of cousins  including a juggler who clearly took on the spirit of a day in which risk was a key theme by juggling with knives and crystal ware!

Looking forward to what day two has in store!

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