CSj previews the Institute’s upcoming biennial Corporate Governance Conference, to be held on Friday 14 September 2018 at the JW Marriott Hotel in Hong Kong.

Next month, the 11th in the Institute’s series of biennial corporate governance conferences (CGCs) gets underway in Hong Kong. The CGC 2018 will be debating the tough questions lying ahead of governance professionals in the emerging business landscape from both a local and international perspective.

The challenges ahead

The Institute’s CGCs have always been primarily focused on addressing future challenges. ‘Over the years we have always tried to have an orientation for the conference which is forward-looking; preparing our members and attendees for things that are likely to come up in the years to come, rather than things that they have already had to deal with,’ as the Event Chairman, Peter Greenwood FCS FCIS, puts it.

In the current environment, however, looking forward is a rather daunting prospect. This year’s CGC comes at a time of unprecedented change globally and locally. On the one hand, digital technologies are transforming every sector of the economy, demolishing tried and tested business models of the past and creating new opportunities for innovators around the world. In addition, we are also entering a time of great uncertainty in political, social and environmental matters.

So what will be the major risks and opportunities for organisations and for governance professionals in the decade ahead? Under the theme ‘Corporate Governance: The New Horizon’, the Institute’s upcoming CGC will address the changing landscape from multiple perspectives.

Session 1: ‘New Values, New Responsibilities’ – will look at the changing expectations on organisations in terms of delivering more than financial performance. This will include issues relating to ESG performance, sustainability and climate change responsibility.

Session 2: ‘New Relationship with Shareholders’ – will look at organisations’ relationships with shareholders and stakeholders. Issues that will be relevant here include shareholder engagement, shareholder rights, the role of controlling shareholders, and the balance between shareholder and stakeholder interests.

Session 3: ‘New Strategies for the Digital Age’ – will look at the impact of emerging technologies on organisations. Issues such as risk management, reputation management, social media and cybersecurity will be particularly relevant here.

Session 4: ‘New Skills, New Mindset, New People’ – will look at the changing landscape from a human resources perspective. How can organisations change mindsets, acquire relevant skills and become more flexible and adaptive? The very topical issue of board diversity will form part of the discussion.

A forum for change

Another defining characteristic of the Institute’s CGCs is the determination to ensure that the forum not only debates relevant corporate governance challenges, but also offers possible solutions to them. This is certainly the ethos of the Keynote Speaker of the CGC 2018 – Professor Mervyn King, Chairman of the International Integrated Reporting Council and Chairman Emeritus of the Global Reporting Initiative.
Professor King is probably best known for his work chairing the committee that has taken his name – the King Committee on Corporate Governance in South Africa. Since the 1990s, the King Reports on Corporate Governance have consistently been ahead of the times in their approach to governance and the roles and responsibilities of companies in society. They have championed issues such as stakeholder inclusivity, sustainability reporting and integrated reporting, and have come to define many of the key concepts that make up ‘best practice’ in governance today.

An innovation at this year’s CGC will be a final debate at the end of the conference between Professor King and young members of the Chartered Secretarial profession in Hong Kong. This debate is designed to ensure that the perspective of the younger generation of governance professionals has a voice at the forum. The long-term challenges that will form the centre of the conference’s discussions will, after all, shape the world they will inherit.

Join the debate

In keeping with the practice of past years, this year’s CGC will adopt a format of relatively short speaker presentations (limited to 20 minutes) followed by extended panel discussions and Q&A sessions. This helps to boost the level of interaction between speakers, panellists and conference attendees. In addition, CGC participants can look forward to the very lively discussions inspired by the use of the electronic voting system. Holding regular electronic polls throughout the debate gives every member of the audience a chance to express his or her view on the topics under discussion. Moreover, in the hands of Event Chair Peter Greenwood, the polls often add to the good humour with which the day’s discussions are held.

The Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries’ Corporate Governance Conference 2018 will take place at the JW Marriott Hotel, Hong Kong, on Friday 14 September 2018. More information and the conference registration form can be found on the CGC webpage: www.hkicscgc.com.

This year’s corporate governance conference will be the culmination of the Corporate Governance Week, organised in the lead-up to the Institute’s double anniversary (next year marks the 70th anniversary of ICSA’s local presence and the 25th anniversary of incorporation of the Institute). More information on the events of the Corporate Governance Week can be found on the Institute’s website: www.hkics.org.hk.