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UK boards lack skills to tackle digital disruption

London - November 19, 2015 - Fifty three percent of non-executive directors believe their boards lack the skills to tackle digital disruption, rating it as by far the most needed skill to improve board performance. This is according to the Harvey Nash Board Report, representing the views of almost 300 non-executive directors (NEDs) and chairs.

Whilst initiatives such Lord Davies’ Women on Boards report are driving boardrooms to become increasingly gender diverse, they remain stubbornly lacking in ‘functional’ diversity. Almost half (45 percent) of board members come from a finance or corporate strategy background, but only four per cent have hands-on experience in digital or technology.

Ashok Gupta, Chair AA Insurance Services, commenting in the Harvey Nash report, said: “The pendulum has swung too far. The political and economic climate has led to increasing focus on corporate reporting, compliance, risk and controls. So non-executive experts in these areas have been recruited. With increasing digitisation we need to spend more time considering the customer needs and innovation, as well as creating the right culture.”

As boards become increasingly concerned by the risk of cyber-crime, as well as recognising the highly disruptive effect of companies like Uber or Amazon, digital is moving from being a tactical issue primarily of concern to the executive team, to a strategic issue that has consequences for non-executives. Two-thirds (67 percent) of non-executives indicated they were talking about Digital noticeably more compared to three years ago, and one-fifth (21 percent) indicated ‘significantly more’. Digital is the second fastest growing worry for the board, only behind Corporate Governance and Risk.

Christine de Largy, chair Harvey Nash Board Practice, commented: “The challenge for boards is how to access the right digital skills. But at the same time all board members need to find a way to assimilate digital skills so they can genuinely understand the detail and do not abdicate the collective responsibility of the board. In today’s world, boards need as firm a grasp on digital as they do on finance.”

About the research:
(i) The Harvey Nash Board Report 2015/16 collected data during the Summer and Autumn of 2015 and represents the views of 292 Non-Executive Directors and chairs from across the UK via a quantitative survey and 28 qualitative interviews.
(ii) Of the respondents, 54 per cent identified themselves as Non-Executive Directors, and 46 per cent were chairs or held both positions. Almost a third (32 percent) served at companies with up to 5,000 employees, while a quarter (23 percent) had roles at organisations with more than 5,000.
(ii) For more information about the survey and to request a full copy of the results, please complete this form

Media Relations contacts:
Michelle Smith
Marketing and Digital, Harvey Nash plc
+44 (0)20 7333 0033

About Harvey Nash’s Board Practice
Harvey Nash Board Practice helps some the world’s most forward-thinking companies attract, assess and develop their board. We are experts at building rich, diverse teams and look beyond the norm to find the exceptional. We provide two key service offerings: evaluation - reviewing the effectiveness of existing boards; and recruitment - finding exceptional talent to add strength to the boardroom team. Find out more at

Nigel Parslow
Managing Director
Executive Search
+44 (0)20 7333 1575

Christine de Largy
UK Board Practice
+44 (0)20 7314 2023