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Tricor & Financial Times Board Director Programme Report Reveals Critical Gaps for Boards in Singapore in Digital Governance, Cybersecurity and Risk Management

Tricor Group and the Financial Times Board Director Programme co-released the inaugural Asia Pacific Board Director Barometer Report, uncovering corporate board sentiments on COVID-19 disruptions globally with a focus on Singapore and other APAC markets.

According to the 2021 Asia Pacific Board Director Barometer Report:

  • Corporate boards are struggling to keep pace with rising digital adoption and transformation pressures against the turbulent headwinds of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Business continuity planning (BCP) and corporate governance, risk & compliance (GRC) are weighing on board directors, rising to the top of corporate board priorities.
  • Corporate boards are not equipped to support effective hybrid meeting models, which are expected be the most favoured operating model post-pandemic.
  • The digital divide is continuing to widen, and corporate boards are falling behind, highlighting operational and security risks and inefficiencies.
  • Gaps in cybersecurity threaten corporate board operations and integrity.

The 2021 Asia Pacific Board Director Barometer Report reveals sentiments and actions of board directors across the globe in key areas of digital transformation, cybersecurity, board operations, corporate governance, risk & compliance (GRC) and business continuity planning (BCP). It is an in-depth survey conducted amongst 771 board directors representing a spectrum of start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), multinational corporations (MNCs), non-profits and listed companies across 12 major industries. The sampling focuses largely on key markets in APAC (including mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Malaysia Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Australia) and also incorporates comparative samples from the Americas, Europe and Africa.

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Key findings from the report include:

  • BCP and GRC pressures are weighing on boards, with an overwhelming 83% of corporate board directors globally and 84% in APAC citing these as top priorities. Overall, confidence about the handling of the crisis is mixed in APAC and there’s significant room for improvement in some markets: 71% of board directors in Singapore said they feel positive about the way their boards have responded, compared to mainland China (68%), Malaysia (56%), Thailand (52%), Hong Kong (51%), Australia (50%), Japan (45%) and Vietnam (42%).
  • Triggered by the mass virtualization following COVID-19, data security has emerged as a pressing concern for 83% of corporate boards. However, these sentiments have not yet been followed up with corrective action. For example, although 77% of board directors in Singapore said data security was an ongoing concern, only 45% said their boards had taken dedicated actions during COVID-19 to improve data security, suggesting that a majority of boards are still operating within inadequate, outdated cybersecurity frameworks.
  • Corporate boards in APAC are resistant to engaging the third-party expertise and solutions needed to solve rapidly emerging challenges. While 60% of directors in the Americas reported their boards would consider engaging third-party expertise to help independently assess GRC and BCP frameworks, APAC was noticeably less receptive with under half (48%) of directors saying their boards would consider doing so. Singapore was on par with global average, with 60% of board directors reporting their board would consider engaging third-party expertise and solutions.
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  • Corporate boards are unprepared to meet security and efficiency requirements for virtual meetings – both currently and post-pandemic: The massive shift to remote work models was reflected in the survey results, with board directors globally reporting that meetings went from being 5% virtual pre-pandemic to 5% in-person since the outbreak of COVID-19. However, without the tools needed to ensure security and efficiency, many boards are unprepared to operate in a hybrid format, which will be the most popular meeting format post-pandemic. Only 2% of boards in Singapore (vs. 5% globally) are currently meeting fully in-person, and only 11% of boards in Singapore (vs. 12% globally) plan to meet fully in-person post-pandemic.
  • Concerningly, one in four corporate boards are not taking action to transform business to bridge widening digital adoption gaps. To prepare for a post-pandemic future, 73% of directors globally said their boards are actively exploring new digital tools. Thailand, Japan and Malaysia surpassed the global average at 79%, 78% and 76% respectively. However, these numbers tracked lower in Hong Kong (70%), mainland China (68%) and Singapore (67%) indicating that large segments of corporate boards in the region have not adopted the digital board portals, digital governance tools and solutions needed to shift from surviving to thriving virtually.
  • Board directors are clamouring for more corporate governance training to increase capabilities: 94% of directors globally said they need more training while just 58% are receiving it. These statistics were exactly matched by the survey’s sample of board directors in APAC. In Singapore, 95% of directors said they need more training and just 62% are currently receiving it.

Lennard Yong, Tricor Group CEO, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a crisis of epic proportions in APAC and beyond, impacting boards of directors from nearly every organization across all industries. Since the onset of the pandemic, Tricor has received an increasing number of inquiries from organizations looking to fortify board resiliency and adopt digital board governance in the face of ongoing business disruptions. Our expert team, equipped with a wealth of integrated, digital-enabled services and diversified corporate governance solutions, is dedicated to helping boards acclimate in the evolving business environment and thrive in the face of uncertainty.”

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Sunshine Farzan, Tricor Group Head of Marketing & Communications, said: “Corporate boards have a fiduciary responsibility to mitigate risk, carefully hedging against catastrophes and outlier events that could overwhelm an organization and threaten shareholders’ investments. But in the face of continuous COVID-19 disruptions, the 2021 Asia Pacific Board Director Barometer Report confirms that board concerns have reached critical mass in cybersecurity, digitization, GRC and BCP. By highlighting impending challenges and outlining key areas for improvement, this report can help boards take the next steps toward business continuity and resiliency.”

Ho Lon Gee, Director, CEO & Managing Director of Tricor Singapore, said: “The scope and depth of the pandemic’s business impacts are unprecedented, being global in nature and resulting in drastic disruptions around the world. As a hub for international business, corporate boards in Singapore in particular have had to adapt to a continuously evolving business environment and make difficult decisions that impact all facets of operations. As in any market with sophisticated regulatory compliance, there are unique, evolving challenges for boards in Singapore. At Tricor Singapore, we are helping boards stay ahead of the curve and avoid common pitfalls by implementing innovative corporate governance solutions in BCP, GRC, cybersecurity and training so organizations can better serve employees, customers, communities and society at large.”

In addition to the proprietary findings, the 2021 Asia Pacific Board Director Barometer Report also features secondary research findings, key insights, industry analysis, focus area recommendations and best practices to help boards better understand how their contemporaries are navigating the ongoing business disruptions amid the pandemic.

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