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Wednesday, 19 January 2011 20:19

Stand Out Board Trends for Tech Companies 4Q2010 Featured

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As some tech companies continue to feel the backlash of the recession—and as others continue to defy it—board appointments remain in the spotlight. Fourth quarter appointments indicate a recognition of the opportunities and challenges 2011 has to offer.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, we saw a trend continue toward appointing traditional heavyweight CEOs or financial-focused, grey-haired execs to boards. Prime examples include Apple, Caterpillar and Time Warner. Apple's financial exec board appointment shows that CEO Steve Jobs doesn't mess around when hand picking his small, but powerful board. Caterpillar also got serious with the appointment of an IBM financial heavyweight and Time Warner appointed an investment banker specializing in leisure and entertainment.

Mirroring the CEO appointment trend, many of 2010's most significant fourth quarter board appointments were globally-minded execs with Asia and Europe experience. Some companies even expanded their boards to accommodate this talent. Key examples include Qualcomm naming a Spanish Telecom exec and Dell naming a German-born lead independent director.

Although women have been gaining ground on tech boards, the fourth quarter saw fewer women appointed to the boards of larger tech companies. Cisco's 46-year-old Laura Ipsen is a major exception.

Finally, we are keeping a close eye on the trend of separating the roles of Chair and CEO. There is no general consensus as to the best practice—the reality is that one size does not fit all. A company could easily separate the roles, yet fail to appoint a strong Chair or CEO, effectively nullifying the intent. What's more, combining the roles may be necessary to enable a CEO to act decisively. A strong lead independent director could be the right move in certain situations. We also see a few significant appointments with the former CEO becoming Chair. Xerox did this as it transitioned in its new CEO, then gave her the title of Chair. We will keep a close eye on the fall out of decisions to separate or not separate the Chair and CEO roles in the quarters ahead.

Please see our blog entries on large cap board appointments and Chair/CEO appointments.

Read 3535 times Last modified on Friday, 24 July 2020 14:22
Dora Vell

Dora Vell is the Managing Partner of Vell Executive Search, a boutique executive search firm in Boston focused on recruiting technology executives and board members. Vell has successfully completed numerous board member and C-level executive searches, including CEOs, COOs, CIOs, and Vice Presidents - at both public and private companies.

Prior to founding the firm in 2005, Vell was a Partner at Heidrick & Struggles' Technology practice for seven years.  Before her career in executive search, she worked at IBM for 11 years, managing software engineering organizations of 100 people and software sales organizations with revenues of $150 million. She has also served as an executive assistant to the CEO of IBM Canada for one year.

Vell holds seven worldwide software patents. She has published several Business of Leadership reports on governance and leadership and has been quoted in numerous articles including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Week, Fortune, Agenda Week, MSNBC, Mass High Tech, the OPUS for the World Economic Forum, Boston Business Journal, The Globe & Mail, CIO Magazine, and IEEE. She also has been a featured speaker on leadership at numerous conferences and at Columbia University's MBA program.

Vell is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), the Boston CEO Roundtable. She has served on the boards of Framingham State, Entrepreneur's Organization, Goodwill, Mary Centre for developmentally handicapped adults,, and RBC Capital Partners.

She has received an MBA from the University of Toronto, a Master in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo, and a Bachelor in Computer Science from Carleton. She has also completed the MIT Entrepreneurial Master’s program.

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