Hello and welcome to Board Director from the Financial Times. As part of this pilot programme, for the next six weeks we will send you a newsletter every Wednesday with all the latest news, trends and debates affecting business, boardrooms and corporate governance more broadly.

You will find my pick of this week’s FT stories, helpful resources to support you as a director, training options and, over the coming weeks, event invites.

I hope you enjoy it. If you have read a story that you think we should include – or a resource that you have found particularly helpful – please do share your ideas by emailing [email protected].
In the week where Boris Johnson set out his vision for a post-pandemic, post-Brexit Britain, there were some positive signals for the UK economy.

While gross domestic product dropped by 1.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2021, there was strong growth in March. Indeed, by the spring, the economy was only 5.9 per cent smaller than it was in February 2020 before the pandemic struck, reports economics editor Chris Giles.

On Monday afternoon, the pound rallied to its highest level against the dollar since February. The jump was in part driven by a series of victories for the Conservative Party in last week’s local elections, and the reduced likelihood of a second Scottish independence referendum in the near future.

Another factor in the lift was improved economic forecasts published by the Bank of England last week. The central bank estimated that the UK economy would grow by 7.25 per cent this year; previous forecasts had put this figure at five per cent.

But this show of optimism disguised what was actually a more gloomy assessment of the UK’s economic performance for this year and next, according to FT analysis. Economics editor Chris Giles revealed that the upward revision of the forecast was driven solely by better than expected past performance. In fact, the BoE had downgraded its outlook for economic growth for each quarter until the end of 2022.

Globally, the looming risk of inflation continues to spook otherwise buoyant markets, with tech stocks in particular hit. The inflationary noise spans the globe, with China witnessing a rise in its producer price index and Fed governor Lael Brainard dismissing concerns about inflation and signalling that the central bank is not yet considering removing its support for the US economy.
Every week leaders and experts will share a selection of articles and features they have found helpful or interesting. Leena Nair, chief human resources officer at Unilever, is first to take part with her reading list:

How to best use data to meet DE&I goals
Without accountability and action, data becomes irrelevant. Unilever wouldn’t have reached gender balance across management globally without being transparent and deliberate with our data. Do not be scared of being vulnerable, be scared of not making progress.

Thriving in the future of work means focusing on your people
We have an opportunity to reinvent the way we work. This article simplifies the complexities of the future of work into three main steps. Ultimately, companies that can balance the needs of their people with those of their business, will thrive in the future of work.

The rise of conscious capitalism
The business case for ESG has risen over the past decade and is now worth more than $32tn. The twin crises of climate change and social inequality – and all the derivative issues they spawn – have only become more profound, and more urgent. Businesses need to play a leadership role in addressing these challenges, not only by doing less harm, but by doing more good for people and the planet.
Alongside sharing the top stories, every week we will assemble a range of resources from around the web to support directors.

Remuneration is on the mind of many boards this week, and new research shows executive pay at the UK’s biggest companies has taken a tumble due to the pandemic.

PwC analysed the first 50 FTSE 100 companies to publish their 2021 remuneration reports. It found that chief executives’ total packages (including bonuses and pensions etc) dropped by a median of 22 per cent to £3.5m in 2020, and more than half had their salaries frozen for 2021.

Investors in the UK and US have also been making themselves heard with regards to pay. AstraZeneca’s chief executive Pascal Soriot faced a revolt on Tuesday, and in the US data suggests that shareholder support for executive bonuses is at its lowest since 2011.

US pension fund Calpers has also come under fire this week over its decision to vote against a climate resolution at BP, while activist environmental group Market Forces warned Standard Chartered that it will face shareholder action unless it tightens its fossil-fuel lending policies.

This briefing by law firm Clifford Chance outlines what boards need to consider when linking ESG to executive pay, and the approaches taken by different countries.

And for those focused on investor relations, last summer PwC’s Governance Insights Center published a guide for boards on shareholder activism, which looks specifically at institutional investors and hedge funds.
The Board Toolkit (Practical guide to help discussions on the climate emergency from Chapter Zero)
Protests from Within: Engaging with Employee Activists (Research by Stanford’s Corporate Governance Initiative)
How geopolitical risks are shaping board strategy (Insights from EY Centre for Board Matters)
An exploration of the challenges facing today’s boards (Review of Dambisa Moyo’s new book by the FT)
Mind the Gap: Cyber security risk in the new normal (Research by the Chartered Institute of Internal auditors)
The principal risk discussion: what’s it for? (Practical insights from Independent Audit)
Your board needs a people committee (Practical insights from the Harvard Business Review)
Four ways boards can shape the cloud agenda (Practical insights from McKinsey)
With over 17 years of experience, The FT Board Director Programme is an established provider of board-level education.

Through a series of workshops, events and formal courses, participants are provided with knowledge of the specific requirements of the role and assists them to carry out their duties successfully for their own benefit and to increase long-term value for the companies whose boards they sit on. Upcoming courses include:

So You Want to Be a Non-Executive Director | 2 June | Half day virtual event
Strategy, Values and Culture - The seismic changes to the way that boards think and operate | 10 June | 3 hour virtual workshop
The Effective Non-Executive Director | 13 & 14 July | Virtual workshop

Receive a 10% discount on any of these workshops by entering the code FTBD10
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