Diversity in the cards for Boards of Directors

Former MD of IBM Malaysia, Chong Chye Neo has made a smooth transition into a board member role, which still keeps her engaged with the local industry.

She sees these engagements as opportunities to contribute back via the various mentoring programes for women leaders aspiring to board member roles. “There are also leadership development programmes for senior management teams and numerous other platforms to share my leadership journey,” she shared.

But that is not all.

Chong Chye Neo

She tells EITN,”As an Independent director on public listed boards, my role is one of oversight rather than actually running the business and operations. As such I would say that I take active interest in keeping abreast of the latest technology innovations that could impact the relevant industries and offer my views on forward-looking disruptions or opportunities.”

One of the industry trends she has observed is that SMEs are typically underserved in this country. Chye Neo explained, “ I believe that many organisations are keen to understand how to better serve this segment within the risk appetite of each of the organisations.”

A statement she makes also somewhat alludes to the future of boards of directors. “Coming from a non- typical background ie technology, I do represent the minority on boards.

“As such, I do try to recommend candidates to board positions from among my network of Technology leaders. At the same time, I am of the view that board diversity including expert members (for example, those with expertise in digital marketing & communications, talent development in view of IR 4.0, and technopreneurs)  is an advantage to organisations given the emergence of social media as a  mainstream influencer, and (emergence of) all manner of digital business opportunities.”

This view that the composition of board members are changing and/or keeping up with the times, aligns with another technology veteran’s observation.

Aligned views

When Chu Hong Keong was asked his views about the importance of tech know-how during boardroom meetings, he responded that technology is increasingly leveraged by almost all organisations and their customers and partners.

Chu Hong Keong

”Technology is increasingly embedded in their services, operations and processes no matter what industry they are in,” explained Hong Keong who has over 3 decades of experience in banking and telecommunications industries.

Having been HSBC Bank Malaysia’s CIO at one point, Hong Keong went on to assume other leadership roles in organisations like MyClear and Silverlake Group.

He said, “Customers are much more digital equipped and savvy, and their buying behaviour and service expectations demand much more (service) pervasiveness, convenience, and better customer experience. The pandemic crisis has significantly accelerated these (demands).

“Organisations are no longer merely adopting technology and digitisation, but (are embarking upon) digitalisation and digital transformation of their business processes, business model, products/services, customer/partners/staff engagements and collaboration.”

He explained that it is an organisation-wide digital transformation which includes culture change.

Digital transformation and innovation inherently increases the importance of technology risk management (including cybersecurity risk), which requires a corresponding increase in knowledge and experience at the board level, he said.

One good example of this happening is in in the financial services industry. Malaysia’s regulator, the central bank has issued a policy document, the RMiT or Risk Management in Technology, which finally necessitates board level participation in technology and cybersecurity risk management.

During another event about RMiT organised by Share/Guide, Hong Keong had shared, “Honestly, I am not surprised at all (that the RMiT came about).”

Hong Keong tells Enterprise IT News, “Technology, and hence digitalisation or digital transformation, is an imperative that should be strategically directed from the top, (ie. board of directors) for long-term business sustainability survivability, growth and future-proofing (the organisation).”