Hello and welcome to your Board Director briefing from the Financial Times, where I share all the latest news, trends and debates affecting business and corporate governance more broadly.

You will find my pick of this week’s FT stories, helpful resources from around the web, training opportunities and our recent event.

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].
Each day FT Leader writers on the Editorial Board meet to discuss the topics and issues to be considered for FT Leader columns. In this week’s planning meeting for the week ahead, three issues dominated:
Is the greenback’s role as the predominant global reserve currency in jeopardy? Even before the pandemic, there were signs that the dollar’s dominance was retreating, writes senior editorial columnist John Plender. Now the threats to watch are “US fiscal profligacy and monetary debasement”.

Indeed, the Federal Reserve faces a “tricky policy pivot”, writes Mohamed El-Erian, president of Queens’ College, Cambridge university. Having dismissed concerns about inflation and tapering support, there are indications some officials want to discuss options. Better to risk the short-term discomfort of a switch, than the threat of greater damage from a policy mistake, he argues.

Elsewhere, the G7 is close to reaching an agreement on corporation tax for multinationals, which would limit the ability of companies to shift profits to low tax jurisdictions.

And closer to home, the CBI has set out a £700bn economic plan for government and British businesses to follow to help the post-Brexit and post-pandemic recovery.

The report “ offers a microeconomic complement to the government’s vision,” writes Tony Danker, director-general of the CBI. “Success or failure now depends on whether business and government can work in unison rather than in parallel,” he adds.

Closer to the boardroom, the UK government’s plans for introducing “managed shared audits” for FTSE 300 companies face a setback. BDO and Grant Thornton, the largest accounting firms in the UK after the Big Four, are considering not pitching for shared audits of FTSE 100 companies, which could leave some struggling to find a challenger to work with.

On that note, our chief UK business correspondent Dan Thomas hosted an FT Board Director digital event, discussing the proposed audit and corporate governance reforms with Sir Jonathan Thompson, chief executive of the Financial Reporting Council, yesterday. If you missed it, you can catch up here.

Directors might also be interested to see accountancy firm EY embracing hybrid working. It told UK staff to expect to spend at least two days a week working from home after the pandemic.

But some chief executives are finding themselves in glorious isolation. As many organisations grapple with a return to work, statistics suggest that workers do not feel the same pull to go back to the office as bosses.

Meanwhile, the tense proxy season continues. Yesterday Aston Martin faced an investor rebellion over its pay report and the re-election of executive chair Lawrence Stroll. It is ExxonMobil’s turn today. There is a vote to decide who sits on its board, and shareholders are restless about the company’s response to climate change.

Finally, the International Energy Agency has also faced pushback from members about its report on reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Japan and Australia have both suggested they will continue fossil fuel investment.
This week Ann Cairns, executive vice chair of Mastercard, shares her reading list:

Invisible Women
I would be surprised if you have not read this book yet, but just in case it is a treasure trove of examples of things designed around the world without women involved, or in mind. The consequences of invisibility are broad, ranging from poorly designed homes without kitchens to higher numbers of fatalities in car accidents. This book will make you stop and think what a different world we would live in if we could change this.

Anthropology is an extremely interesting subject and is much more mainstream today than it ever was. While Gillian Tett’s new book could be seen as common sense and good judgement, it also has some brilliant examples of why things work differently in different parts of the world. In today’s working world, culture is so important. Gillian’s book is worth reading as we think about how companies manage the return to the office – in the end we’re all human beings and we need social interaction, so hybrid models certainly can be the future, but they need to be well designed, well thought-through, and well executed.

The interesting thing about Daniel Kahneman’s book is that it talks about something we are all aware of – noise in our everyday life. The surprising thing is how noisy our life actually is. Now that we know about noise, the important thing is to focus on how we reduce it and the book has some good suggestions for coping strategies. We are all aware of bias, and the book shows that both bias and noise increase error rates, but actually work independently of each other. In some ways bias is the known enemy of accuracy, but noise is the unseen force. Perhaps we will only get a grip on this as we move into the AI world. But while algorithms eliminate noise, they can be notorious for increasing bias.

SoftBank reshuffled its board this week with both Yuko Kawamoto, the company’s first female director, and vice-chair Ron Fisher set to leave. In her departing note, Kawamoto wrote that the biggest challenge for the group is “to design a succession plan”.

No such reminder was needed at Smiths Group. Yesterday the UK industrial conglomerate announced that Andy Reynolds Smith had stepped down as chief executive, with Paul Keel immediately assuming the role.

JPMorgan Chase has also been considering its talent pipeline. Last week the bank announced Marianne Lake and Jennifer Piepszak will become co-heads of the consumer and community banking unit. Both have been tipped as potential successors to chief executive Jamie Dimon.

If you are looking at succession planning, there are plenty of practical tips in this guide on board refreshment and succession by PwC and senior leadership recruiters Spencer Stuart.

And, just in case you are tempted, this article from the Harvard Business Review explains why it is not a good idea to delay when it comes to chief executive succession planning.
Amending UK company law for a regenerative economy (Discussion paper from the Institute of Director’s Centre for Corporate Governance)
Squaring the Circle: leading companies in a contradictory world (Insights from the BCG Henderson Institute)
The hypocritical attack on CEO pay (Opinion from the FT)
Ransomware: prevention and response (Practical insights from Clifford Chance)
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