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Chartered Director

My journey: Neil Glass CDir, IoD Bermuda

02 Apr 2019

Neil Glass is a Chartered Director based in Bermuda, and sits as an independent director on a number of investment fund boards. After two decades as a director, his commitment to lifelong learning saw him qualify as a Chartered Director in 2019.

Background

I earned a degree in Business from the University of Alberta and am a member of both the Chartered Professional Accountants of Bermuda and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta. I have worked in numerous roles in Bermuda’s asset management industry since 1990, and currently serve as an independent director of numerous funds. From 2013 – 2016, I led the Bermuda Business Development Agency Asset Management Group, interfacing with senior members of the regulator, government and fund industry as we worked together to renew Bermuda’s asset management industry.

I am a Founding Member of Wishing Step Pictures Ltd., a film production company formed to produce socially-conscious films as a driving force for social change, and a Founding Member of The Abolish Foundation, which combats modern day slavery, human rights abuses, gender inequality and environmental destruction. I was a Co-founder of The Bermuda International Film Festival.

Why I undertook the CDir programme

Although I have been a director for over 20 years, increasing compliance obligations and evolving best practice governance standards made pursuing professional training a necessity.

I found that EU corporate governance standards were about 10 years ahead of North American standards, and quickly determined that the IoD best met my needs.

Although I have always taken my director responsibilities seriously, I feel I am better prepared to deal with emerging issues since becoming Chartered.  I hope that I can serve as a role model so that more of my peers will see the benefits of continuously upgrading skills.

My key learnings

When I first enrolled in the IoD Certificate in Company Direction in 2016, I was sceptical whether the courses would offer any new insights that my broad experience had not already covered.  Although I was familiar with the concepts covered in the Certificate courses, I found the interaction with peers who also wanted to upgrade their skills invaluable.  Practical experience as a director remains the best foundation for learning, but collaboration with other directors and updates on leading practice were helpful in remaining current. 

Prior to enrolling in the IoD courses, I last took professional exams in 1985 when I wrote my Chartered Accountant examinations, which consisted of writing 4 four-hour papers over four days, with the final day comprising a four-hour case study.  It is amazing how quickly the three hours allotted for the Diploma in Company Direction case study flew by – it was definitely a challenge to remain focused and complete the task at hand in the limited time given.

Completing the Chartered Director Portfolio was not an easy task, as you are allowed a maximum of three boards to demonstrate five skills (e.g. delegation to management) by answering five questions about that skill.  In several instances I had four great answers but could not relate an experience that would answer the fifth question.  In the end it became an exercise in strategic planning, as I mapped out a grid of my board experiences against the 25 answers I had to submit, to come up with the optimal selection!

I found that the interview itself was a very positive experience – the two Chartered Director interviewers came across as collegial and supportive of me demonstrating my skills and experience. Having said that, there were a couple of occasions where I felt like we were separated by a common language – as a Canadian I thought I understood the questions, but they needed to be re-phrased as I was not answering the question that had been asked!

How the CDir programme has helped me

I definitely feel more up to date on trends in corporate governance and current best practices.  The IoD Bermuda branch has done an excellent job of making professional development accessible on the island - they bring in top notch instructors and speakers, which is much more cost effective and time efficient than if we had to constantly travel overseas.

My biggest challenge

Ironically, I think the biggest challenges have been on not-for-profit boards I have volunteered on.  Unlike the paid board positions I serve on, I am often one of the few professionals sitting around the table with a majority of socially-minded and/or artistic third sector board members.  A balance must be struck between helping as many people as possible whilst still being prudent enough with limited resources to ensure the organisation can continue to offer the services going forward.

The most important attributes of a modern director

In today’s quick changing global marketplace, it is imperative that directors are vigilant of shifting opportunities and risks.  As stakeholder expectations continue to rise, more divergent points of view must be considered to ensure that sound decisions are made.  Continuing formal and informal professional development programs are key to keeping abreast of changes to compliance and fiduciary obligations.

My advice for new directors

Do your homework.  Always take the time to thoroughly review board papers and keep abreast of changes in your industry.

Do not let yourself be pressured into making a decision if you feel you do not have adequate information.  Request input from outside experts if the board does not have the necessary expertise on a topic.

Seek the opinion of people from different backgrounds and with different perspectives from your own.  So many business blunders are a result of group think, where all the decision makers look at the issues through the same narrow lens.  This is why I am involved with Board Apprentice Bermuda, where we mentor people of different backgrounds with the goal that they bring their varying perspectives and backgrounds to the boardroom.

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