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Board composition

2020 Ireland Spencer Stuart Board Index

2020 Snapshot


the average number of board members


the average age of board members


of directors are not Irish citizens


of new board members are women

Board size

The average board size is 9.8 directors, two of whom are executives with non-executives accounting for the rest. The largest board in the ISEQ 20 is Glanbia with 16 members, eight of whom are nominated by Glanbia Cooperative Society Ltd. The smallest board is Greencoat Renewables with four members, all of whom are non-executive directors. This is due to Greencoat’s governance model; all of the operations of the business are managed by Greencoat Capital.

Number of directors on ISEQ 20 boards
Percentage of ISEQ 20

8 or fewer


9 to 11




Independent directors

67% of all board members are categorised as non-executives (excluding chairs) and of these, 95% are considered to be independent. 15 (75%) of the companies in our sample considered all of their non-executive directors to be independent and all but one company considered the majority of their non-executive directors to be independent.

90% of companies in our sample considered a majority of the board independent, including the chair and executive board members.

New directors

Across the 20 companies, 7% of all directors were appointed to the board in the 12 months prior to 30 April 2020. 7% of all non-executive directors (excluding chairs) were appointed in the 12 months prior to this cut-off date.

Among chairs, seven of the 20 are first-time chairs of a listed company but of these just two joined the board as chair. The other five all held other roles on the board before taking up the chair position. All 20 chairs had previous experience as a non-executive on the board of a listed company.

First-time non-executive directors

As of 30 April 2020, 24% of all non-executives (excluding chairs) were first-time non-executive directors, meaning they had not previously sat on a quoted board in a non-executive capacity. Of these first-time non-executives, 38% were female and 24% were of a nationality different to the nationality of the company.

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Foreign directors

30% of all board members in our sample, both executive and non-executive, are foreign, (their nationality is different to the nationality of the company). Unsurprisingly, the majority of foreign directors were UK citizens, although 14 different nationalities are represented across the ISEQ 20 from 4 different continents.

Female directors

26% of all board members in our sample were female. This includes one female chair and three female chief executives. On five (25%) of the ISEQ 20 boards, at least 30% of directors were women. One board had achieved a 50/50 gender split and one had no female representation at all. On average, 23% of board membership was female.

In terms of new board directors (using the same criteria as in the previous section) 48% were female and 44% were of a different nationality to the company they joined as a director.

53% (85) of new non-executive directors are serving as executives in other companies; the rest have portfolio careers. 21% (34) of newly appointed directors sit on at least one other listed company boards.

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The chart below shows a breakdown of the average ages across different board categories.

Average age of board members by category

From our sample, Hibernia Reit’s board had the highest average age of non-executive directors at 68 years while Bank of Ireland had the lowest at 58. However, Hibernia Reit had the youngest average age for executive directors at 45. The board with the oldest average age for executives was Total Produce at 62.

Board meetings

The average number of scheduled board meetings was 9.8 in the year. This was high when compared with the UK’s FTSE 150, which had an average of 7.7 and the USA’s S&P 500 which averaged 7.9 board meetings.

The most common number of meetings was seven (25% of the sample set). AIB Group Plc and Aryzta had the most scheduled meetings with 17 each and Smurfit Kappa had the least at five.

Length of tenure

Average tenure among non-executives was 4.5 years. There was a clear divide between female non-executives, who served an average of four years, and male non-executives who had served an average of five years. (Please note that this metric is from the date that the individual joined the board, not the length of time in their current role.)

This division between genders was even more stark among executives. Average tenure among women was five years compared to nine years for men, with an overall average tenure of eight years. Given the relatively small sample size, several long-serving board members had a notable impact on the data, with six people (all male) having served over 20 years on their respective boards and three of those having served over 30 years.

The average tenure among chairs was 6.2 years and for CEOs it was eight years. Irish Continental Group had both the longest serving chief executive (28.7 years) and longest serving chair (16.4 ears). Both had held different positions initially and each of them had served over 32 years on the board.

Board evaluation

All ISEQ 20 boards underwent an evaluation during the year. 25% of the sample used an external provider to undertake the review, whereas the rest conducted an internal evaluation led by the chair.

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