Corporate Board Member and Spencer Stuart have released the results of the 15th annual What Directors Think survey, which reflects the opinions of more than 200 directors at publicly traded U.S. companies. Despite the activist headlines and the economic boom times, the survey finds boards are overwhelmingly concerned with being ill-equipped to keep up with the acceleration of technology and disruption.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of directors surveyed said their board has at least one member with the technical skills to engage in a meaningful discussion with senior information security executives on matters of a highly technical nature. Yet, a similar proportion (67%) reported having had to bring in subject matter experts to help master contentious cyber issues, and 20% of those who had not yet done so at the time of the survey were considering doing it in the near future.
It is clear from the findings that cybersecurity risk remains a top concern for directors, and that it may in fact be intensifying. In the 2017 What Directors Think survey, 78% of directors said they felt additional regulation would have little effect in curbing cyberattacks and would overburden companies and their boards. This year, 20% say that high-profile breaches, especially those that occurred at Equifax, the SEC, and Uber, have convinced them to change their stance in favor of more cyber regulation, enough to have tipped the scale in support of increased regulation in that area.
As regulators work to double down on their efforts to eradicate inadequate cybersecurity practices, directors of publicly traded companies have no choice but to shift their focus to finding a resolution to this growing threat. According to Julie Hembrock Daum, who leads the North American Board Practice at Spencer Stuart, S&P 500 boards have already begun reshaping their committee structures. “New committees are emerging, and several have become more prevalent in the past 10 years, including risk; science and technology; and environment, health and safety committees. In 2007, for example, 5% of boards had a science and technology committee, compared with 10% today.”