Q&A with Chair of GBG2, Karen Percival

Chair of Get on Board Group Two, Karen Percival

Karen Percival is Chair of our second Adelaide-based group for new and aspiring company directors. Karen has had a successful professional career as a Chartered Accountant and Law-firm CEO, and is an experienced company director. By way of introducing herself, Karen is sharing her experiences as a company director. You can read more about Karen – and her Get on Board group – here.

What is your professional background?

When I left school in the UK, I undertook an apprenticeship with Arthur Young London (now known as EY [Ernst & Young]) to work as an auditor and ultimately qualify as a chartered accountant.  I then moved into a number of roles in industry, working for global companies, before moving to Adelaide and into leadership roles in the legal industry.

What was your first senior management / board reporting role?

It was as an auditor. We used to have to prepare reports for boards, and when I moved into industry (at Lex Vehicle Leasing, which was the largest vehicle leasing company in the UK) as Financial Controller, I had to prepare reports to the company’s board and joint venture partners.

What was your first board position?

My first board position was as the Treasurer for a local sports club.

Do you remember what was going through your mind at your first board meeting?

It was along the lines of “are we ever going to finish” – it was all over the place and not really sticking to an agenda.  I was left wondering what I had got myself in to.

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened at a board meeting (if you can tell us)?

One of the board members got so irate when things weren’t going their way; they stood up and stormed out! This left everyone wondering what to do.

What’s the most important thing to remember as a director / board member?

To leave your personal interests at the door and make decisions that are in the best interests of the company – and always declare if you have a conflict of interest.

What do you enjoy most about being a company director?

Being able to contribute to improvements in the company on either an operational or financial level. A good board will have skills that compliment each other and working together can achieve great results.

How did/do you manage a professional career, while sitting on a board(s)?

I make sure I am very organised and prepared to do the necessary board preparation work (usually in the evenings).  It’s also handy to use one centralised diary to keep track of your meetings and commitments – people laugh at me for still using a paper diary; but it works for me and enables me to effectively manage many responsibilities and commitments at once!

How do you see the future of the corporate governance landscape changing?

I see it [governance] getting tighter, with directors being held accountable for a company’s actions.  It is going to be important for boards to demonstrate good governance practices as standard, which in turn is going to require a large number of individuals to seek proper training before accepting board roles. That why I think Get on Board is such a great program!

If you could give one piece of advice to new directors, what would it be?

Understand the governance landscape for director’s responsibilities and do your due diligence before accepting a board position to make sure you know what you are going in to.  Don’t just accept a board appointment because you are flattered to be asked.

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