Who wants to be a bank director? Some participants expressed concern that bank boards will have trouble attracting the kind of people they need if expectations and risks for directors continue to increase. They are not alone in this assessment. Outgoing RBS Chairman Philip Hampton said, “This does bring a risk of diluting the quality of boards. We all know bank boards have to improve, but it’s a fairly small pool of people who are qualified for the role, ready for the greater time commitment of a bank board, and also the extra personal exposures.” 48 And Andrew Bailey reportedly acknowledged at a conference that prospective bank directors might ask, “Why would I want to do this?” 49 While the role has been particularly challenging since the financial crisis, the demands of key board roles have only increased. At the same time, personal reputational and even legal risk is growing. As more banks build subsidiary boards, the demand for nonexecutive directors is growing as the ability to attract the best people is becoming more difficult. A director said, “Even 18 months ago, I would not have said this, but it is now becoming remarkably difficult to find people to take on the main committee chair roles because of concerns about personal liability, the level of questioning from regulators, and the time commitment required.” Another summarized, “The reward really isn’t there, while the risk is clear and present.” “The reward really isn’t there, while the risk is clear and present.” – Director The reputational risk is a particular concern. A director noted that even “modest errors of judgment could see your whole reputation sullied,” and another said, “It is a scary business to be writing options on your reputation.” *** If good governance is ultimately about sound risk management, then boards and individual directors are still wrestling with the best way to oversee the diverse risks in international banks. And those risks are also increasingly personal. A director remarked, “You only really enter into it if you believe you can get comfortable with the level of risk.” And fewer and fewer are able to do that. One director concluded, “Would I join the board, the risk committee of a big, global bank with an investment bank, now? No.”
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