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Board meetings, commitments and evaluation

2020 UK Spencer Stuart Board Index

2020 Snapshot


the average number of board meetings

 61 %

of chairs sit on at least one other listed board

 30 %

of CEOs have an outside directorship

 46 %

of boards underwent an externally facilitated evaluation

Board meetings

The average number of board meetings in 2020 was 7.7, compared with 7.6 in 2018 and 7.3 in 2018. A total of 31 companies disclosed holding meetings beyond the scheduled number, holding an average of 3.6 ad hoc meetings between them.

The number of scheduled meetings ranged from four (seven companies) to 16 at Aviva.

The average attendance rate for board meetings was 98%. 86.5% of companies stated having an attendance rate of 95% or higher.

Our data is based on company year-ends, most of which occurred before the full impact of the coronavirus took hold. We expect to record a significant increase in ad hoc meetings in our next UK Board Index.

Board meetings per year (% of companies)
<6 6-7 8-9 >10
2020 11% 41% 29% 19%
2019 8% 46% 32% 14%
2018 11% 48% 29% 11%
2017 5% 32% 31% 31%
2016 9% 38% 40% 13%
2015 9% 39% 32% 19%

External commitments

This year, 61% (92) of chairs sit on at least one other listed company board, compared with 68% in 2019 and 75% in 2016. Since 2019, the average number of external boards that chairs sit on has halved from 1.8 to 0.9.

Among the chairs sitting on at least one other listed company board, 41% (38) sit on a foreign board.

The proportion of CEOs holding an outside board directorship increased slightly to 30% (44), compared with 28% in 2019. 28% (37) of CFOs hold an outside board, down from 29% in 2019.

Percentage of chairs who lead another FTSE 350 board
Our perspective

The issue of ‘overboarding’ has been on the radar of investors for some time. If anyone was in doubt about the danger of taking on too many concurrent board roles, the pandemic surely has them convinced. When a black swan event occurs, all hands must be on deck; every board member must have enough slack in their diary to be able to devote the additional time necessary to see the company through the crisis. The role of the listed company board chair has become more demanding, to the point where fewer and fewer chairs are taking on board roles elsewhere. In the light of Covid-19, we believe that every director should be mindful about overboarding and think carefully about taking on additional board roles for the foreseeable future.

Board evaluation

The vast majority of companies comply with the UK Corporate Governance Code recommendation to conduct an annual board evaluation and to use an external facilitator at least once every three years. This year, 46% of companies conducted an externally facilitated review, the highest on record.

Boards undertaking an evaluation: 2020 vs 2010
Getting real value from board assessments: Beyond “check the box”

Guidance for getting the most out of your board’s next annual assessment

Boardroom best practice

Best practices for an effective board