Executives Seeking their First or Next Board Seat: while this report focuses on technology company boards, we are seeing more and more corporations of all industries needing technology executives. We touch on this in the technology hot topics. More to come on corporate boards seeking technology executives in an upcoming newsletter.
We welcome your comments, questions, and also trends you may have observed.
Thanks again and all the best,
Managing Partner, Vell Executive Search
Veteran recruiters for Tech board members and C level executives
In this Newsletter
Summary of what we learned
Where are the board seats?
- Average number of board seats by company size
- Overall number of board seats by company revenues
- Number of board seats by tech industry sub-sector
Tech Hot Topics in tech boards & other corporate boards
Functional background of Board Members sitting on Multiple Tech Boards
- Highest degree attained - overall
- Highest degree attained – single & multiple boards
- Percentage of Board Members from Top Schools
About Vell Executive Search
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Summary of What We Learned
Where are the board seats?
- There are more board roles in the $100m to $500m companies overall, even though they have fewer board seats per company.
- Industry sub-sectors with the most board seats: Software leads the way with 30% of the board seats, the Hardware sector has almost 20%.
- Getting on your own company’s board: you may have a shot if you have one of the following roles. Companies between $100m to $500m have 18% insiders and include non-founder CEOs, including CTOs, CMOs, COOs and Presidents.
Technology Hot Topics in Tech Companies & All Industries
- Analytics & Data, Virtual Reality and leaders in the innovative breakthrough sectors.
- Hot topics in all Industry Sectors: Cybersecurity, Digital Transformation, Analytics & Data, Cloud operation and ERP (from a Deloitte study lines up with our own)
Ages: 41% are between 50 to 60, and 36% over 60. But ages vary from 25 to 94.
- Harvard leads the way in all categories and some of the other Top Ranked Universities. As with everything else, it is an indicator of success. Other factors also weigh in, like deep expertise in something hot or have recognizable company names.
- 75% have an advanced degree. The top degree in demand seems to be an MBA. The second highest degree attained is a Bachelor’s.
Committee Leadership Specialization: specializing in a specific committee and leading one gets you multiple boards and board leadership opportunities to head up committees.
- For executives sitting on multiple boards., CEOs and GMs take up 53% of the roles, and CFOs make up for another 22% of the roles.
- New functional areas: a new trend are CHROs with Succession Planning experience to supplement compensation committees.
Where are the board seats?
Smaller companies have smaller boards:
There are less board seats in smaller companies (7 on average) than in the larger companies (11.1 on average).
However, most of the board seats are in smaller companies.
Number of Board seats by Industry sub-sectors: Software companies have about 31% of the seats, followed by hardware companies at close to 20%.
Technology Hot Topics
Analytics & Data, Virtual Reality and leaders in the innovative breakthrough sectors.
Our study lined up with Deloitte’s textual analysis of 7,925 companies' public documents (specifically 10ks) tech themes:
Emerging technologies (e.g., bitcoin, cognitive computing, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, Internet of Things)
Core/legacy systems (e.g., legacy IT, legacy systems, core systems, application modernization)
Analytics and insights (e.g., data analytics, data insights, artificial intelligence, big data, business intelligence)
Cloud (e.g., cloud, software as a service, platform as a service, infrastructure as a service, names of key technology firms and their products)
Enterprise resource planning (e.g., enterprise resource planning, ERP, names of key technology firms and their products)
Customers (e.g., customer, customer relationship management)
Ecosystem (e.g., ecosystem technology partner, technology ecosystem, technology vendor)
Technology-enabled business/digital transformation (e.g., digital innovation, digital transformation, technology disruption, technology innovation, technology road map, technology transformation)
Technology strategy (e.g., technology strategy, IT strategy)
The preponderance of tech directors – over three-fourths – are in their 50s (41% overall) and 60s (36%), with an average between 57 and 58 years of age. However, among companies with over $5b in revenue, the order is reversed –directors in their 60s outnumber those in their 50s.
Looking across the industry sub-sectors, we find the youngest average age among directors in Internet Retail and Software (around 54), and the oldest in Electronic Components and Healthcare Tech (around 61).
The Fast Starters (board members under 40) generally fit into one of three categories:
Strategists and investors: Highly educated from top tier schools and have experience in highly respected companies.
Technologists and entrepreneurs: Have expertise in highly hot tech topics, such as big data and analytics, social networking and consumer acquisition, digital transformation, merging virtual reality and traditional media, and others.
The well-connected: Well-known or family connections; many hold distinguished backgrounds that rival the other two categories.
The Grey Hair
Notwithstanding mandatory retirement ages in governance charters, there are quite a few board members older than 70.
- There are 24 women and 717 men 70 years or older.
- The oldest woman is 79. The oldest man is 94.
- 77 men are over 80, and seven are over 90.
- Some are “new hires”: Salesforce named a 74-year-old European regulator to its board.
Functional Expertise for Executives Serving on Multiple Boards
It is not surprising that CEOs and CFOs are the top two functions occupying technology board seats. General Managers typically are GMs or Presidents of divisions of well known large companies.
A couple of notes:
- There is a broader representation of functional areas within the overall group.
- Technology execs with different functional backgrounds are in increasing demand for corporate boards (non - tech boards). They are sought after for specific expertise in digital transformation, analytics and data, cybersecurity and many other areas, as outlined in tech topics above.
We tracked the highest degree attained for tech board members:
- 76% of board members overall have an advanced degree.
- 84% of board members sitting on multiple tech boards have an advanced degree.
- MBA is the most common such degree, followed by Bachelor's degrees and then other advanced degrees.
Having a degree from a top school (as defined by US News ranking “Top Colleges”) helps... the distribution below is the subset of all tech board members we studied.
The distribution is fairly similar for large company boards. 53% of large company board members have attended at least one top school with Harvard at 11%, Stanford at 9%, Wisconsin at 7%, MIT at 5.5%, Princeton 5.5%, UCLA 3.6%, U Penn at 3.6% and the University of Texas at 3.6%.
About Vell Executive Search
Vell Executive Search is a retained executive search firm that specializes in recruiting technology board directors, CEOs and C-Level executives. Since 2005,
Vell has built a reputation for recruiting talented diverse high-performing leadership teams globally.
Our services are designed to help you build strong leadership teams that deliver success.
We are a boutique firm with Fortune 500 experience. Veteran senior consultants with backgrounds at the world’s largest executive search firms handle our board and C-level assignments. Because our executive recruiters are technology industry specialists, we can focus more time and attention on fewer searches and projects – and drive strong results.
With our unique operational and technical background, Vell becomes deeply versed with your company faster, helping not only find the right candidates, but also excite them about your opportunity and perform assessments to ensure the right skills and cultural match.
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