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Demand for governance expertise doubles as NZ businesses seek to protect themselves against the pandemic

Board Dynamicschief executive Henri Eliot says demand for his company’s expertise in board appointment and evaluation has doubled over the last 12 months, as New Zealand businesses seek help to strengthen their corporate governance in the wake of the pandemic.

National law firm Tompkins Wake has purchased a 50 per cent stake in Board Dynamics, enabling the duo to enhance its current offering to companies wanting professional expertise to protect their businesses during unprecedented times.  

The new partnership gives clients on both sides access to a full suite of legal and governance services, from board evaluation, director recruitment and mediation, to advising on director duties, regulatory issues, shareholder agreements, and helping resolve board and shareholder disputes.

“The last year has been a real game changer for our business and it’s only going to get busier,” says Henri. “More than ever, companies are recognising that their success and resilience depends on having an effective board and a clear strategy in place.

“Covid-19 has created uncertainty for businesses, both from an economic and health and wellbeing perspective. It’s forced directors to be more focussed on their businesses’ strategic risk and supporting the CEO and senior management team.”

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Henri says he saw many boards using video technology to meet daily to discuss how best to support their senior management team and mitigate the risk to their people and their business.

“Companies also started doing more real time reporting. Boards were looking at their financials more often throughout the month, being more hands on and making operational decisions together with the management team.

“Every risk management strategy talks about a ‘force majeure’, but we never think of a pandemic. It was new to everyone. It has forced boards to get together, look at where their skill gaps were and start replacing members that aren’t pulling their weight around the table.  

“In today’s world, an effective board needs directors with diversity of thought, clear, strategic thinking, and experience that's current - not 10 or 20 years old.”

Henri believes this is the first time any law firm in New Zealand has acquired an equity stake in a full-service board advisory firm.

“This type of diversification is a trend we are already seeing in the UK and Europe, but not yet in New Zealand.”

Board Dynamics has a long history with the Tompkins Wake team, particularly with one of the firm’s partners, Tom Arieli, who has been instrumental in getting the new venture off the ground.

Tompkins Wake chief executive Jon Calder says the firm’s partnership with Board Dynamics will give clients access to another level of service from experts they can trust. 

“Over the last decade, Board Dynamics has been involved in more than 350 director appointments and worked with hundreds of boards across a multitude of sectors. Henri is internationally recognised and has a strong reputation in the local market, particularly in the board rooms of New Zealand’s largest companies.

“Tompkins Wake also has a strong tier of corporate clients, whose success depends on having the right governance in place. We are looking forward to the skills and expertise Board Dynamics will bring to the table and creating new opportunities for growth together.”

Tompkins Wake’s Jon Calder and Tom Arieli will join Henri Eliot as directors of Board Dynamics. This month, both companies will relocate to new offices in the Shortland & Fort office tower on Shortland Street in Auckland. 

Henri Eliot