Board Practice

Board Practice & Strategic Consultancy

The role of boards and of non-executive directors in particular has never been more important than in the ever-changing business world of today. Boards not only keep track of governance, legal and regulatory requirements but also are the key to creating and delivering winning strategies, competitive cultures and successful businesses.

The IRC UK team and our associates have deep and wide-ranging board and management experience across a number of industries including banking and financial services, consumer, industrial, automotive and media. They have first-hand board experience in both commercial and not-for-profit sectors as well as long experience of senior level management consultancy. All of this enables us to offer a range of services designed to maximise the effectiveness of your board, your senior management and your business as a whole.

Our Team

Richard Boot OBE DL

During his 20 years as a Partner at KPMG, Richard was a Managing Director and UK Board member for the firm’s Management Consulting and then Corporate Finance businesses. He was also Chairman of the Centre for Manufacturing Consultancy and non-executive Chairman of KPMG's UK Automotive Practice for 7 years.

Richard served two terms as Regional Chairman of the Institute of Directors in the West Midlands and was on the IOD National Council for 14 years.

He has been a board member and adviser for a number of private companies including Non-Executive Chairman of a large multi-national packaging Group and its associated investment vehicle and businesses involved in Manufacturing, Healthcare, IT services and Vehicle Distribution.

He has also been a Regional Chairman with private bankers, Coutts & Co.

Richard is Chairman of IRC UK

Graham Smith

Graham has extensive experience at executive and board level within a wide range of companies and sectors. Graham was a management consulting partner at KPMG where he was global head of engineering & industrial products. He also recruited and led the UK management consulting business.

During Graham’s 19 years with KPMG he led complex, transformational multi-functional engagements, including clients’ solutions for people and change, strategy, outsourcing/off-shoring, operational transformation, financial management, data analytics and information technology with some of the world’s largest organisations. Before joining IRC UK, Graham was a Partner at Heidrick & Struggles and then at the Miles Partnership. Prior to KPMG Graham held a number of line roles in the Consumer, Industrial and Automotive sectors.

Jean Pousson

Jean is an experienced management consultant with over twenty years' experience of working with boards, coaching executives and delivering training assignments in the fields of finance, strategy, risk and board performance. He spent the first fifteen years of his career with Barclays Bank in South Africa assessing risk and helping initially small and then mid-sized businesses and ultimately corporate clients to put together debt packages and structures. He also has workout experience.

In 1989 and joined D C Gardner & Co Limited (now part of the Euromoney Group plc) as Assistant Corporate Director, delivering training and consultancy assignments to an international client base. Assignments ranged from training to helping boards and organisations to put in place robust strategic planning processes and then helping them arrive at an overall corporate strategy. Coaching activities have also been provided on a one to one basis with executives to assist in their personal development in finance, understanding strategic planning and acquisition strategy.

Gary Cowdrill

Beginning his career at KPMG, Gary is an experienced board level finance executive. He is a former Group Finance Director of the West Bromwich Building Society and has worked in a variety of finance related roles for National & Provincial Building Society, Norwich and Peterborough Building Society and the Paragon Group. He has extensive experience in commercial lending, property investment, risk and premises management and HR. He was also worked on strategy development and implementation. As part of his personal development during this period he graduated from the INSEAD Advanced Management Programme.

He has wide experience in corporate finance, treasury and structured finance and has worked on many acquisitions, disposals, new business initiatives and financing transactions.

More recently, Gary became a non-executive director of medical insurer BHSF and, as a consultant, has provided finance and strategic advice to two property development companies and an IFA, and also to two financial service organisations seeking to achieve UK banking authorisation. He has also been a non-executive director of a Swiss private bank.

Ian Squires

Before joining IRC UK, Ian spent 40 years career in television and broadcasting and had many years as a board level executive. He carried out a number senior editorial, production and management positions at the BBC, in the independent sectors and for 21 years at ITV. Ian was the managing director of a major studio production complex, and following that managing director of the ITV Midlands franchise, Central Television. Prior to that he was MD of a successful independent production company. Outside of television Ian has chaired the boards of two of Britain’s biggest producing theatres, the Birmingham Rep and Curve, Leicester and also sits on the boards of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Birmingham Royal Ballet. Ian is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufacturing & Commerce

Our Services

Chairman, Senior Management & Non-Executive Director Appointments

With active global connections through the IRC network, we are finely poised to identify and make contact with the executive and non-executive talent you need to develop your company. We begin the process by getting to the heart of the company culture, understanding the business, its place in the market and its strategy for growth and development. In consultation with the chairman or senior directors, we create the key assessment criteria against which every candidate will be measured. Not only do we measure candidates against those criteria, we also ask the candidates to ‘self-assess’ against them to give us further insight into the individual. It is an exhaustive process designed to identify – and to deliver – the right person into the role.

Board Assessment & Review

A thoroughgoing assessment of your board to establish its effectiveness as a team and the impact it is having on the business. Equipped with deep research into your sector and with a sound knowledge of your company, we will observe the board in action, speak confidentially to all directors and – working with the business – conduct a detailed skills audit, consider the decision making process and review the governance documentation to give you an all-round assessment of the board and how you can develop its capabilities whether by re-building the board to meet new challenges or by helping you with individual director appraisal and mentoring help move the board to a new position.

We also use an on-line diagnostic tool developed specifically for board evaluation. This is a tried and tested system consisting of around 100 questions that takes, on average, about 45 minutes for each individual board director to complete. The questions are varied in their nature, and can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the client, allowing directors to express their views on the competence and effectiveness of the board in dealing with the full spectrum of issues.

The results, which are treated confidentially, are analysed and interpreted by our consultants who feedback the findings and highlight important issues with the Chairman, key board personnel, or the entire board. As well as enabling a board to rate and assess its own performance, the board evaluation tool can also allow directors to comment on the performance of their colleagues.

Where applicable we can include more participants in the survey; within the company it may, for example, be relevant and useful to get the views of key management personnel operating below board level. Externally it is often interesting to canvas important stakeholders such as key suppliers and customers.

The findings lend themselves to comparison of data on board performance. How does my board compare with other companies? How does our board performance compare with our performance one year ago and two years ago?

Board Succession

While the role of the board and in particular the need for high-calibre non-executive directors is well established, the search for the right candidates with the appropriate skills and experience is never-ending. IRC UK is part of worldwide organisation with offices in 45 countries so we are exceptionally well-placed to identify the best talent across the globe. We can work with you to identify new trends that may require different board skills further down the road, seeking out new thinking and new people. We can identify talent gaps on your board – both executive and non-executive - and we can ‘talent map’ well in advance of searching for candidates to create a succession pipeline. IRC UK’s consultants and associates have wide-ranging board experience in a number of sectors including commercial and not-for-profit organisations.

Strategy Consultation

In parallel with a board assessment or as a stand-alone exercise, IRC UK offers strategy consultation to give an independent and external view of the direction of the business, its culture, its abilities to deliver its chosen strategy, how its strategic approach compares with peer group businesses in the same sector and how competitive that strategy is by comparison. We can assess the strategic planning process and identify the degree to which the board had any real impact on the creation of the strategy.

We also use an on-line diagnostic tool developed specifically for strategy evaluation. The questions are varied in their nature, and can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the client, allowing directors to express their views on the extent and effectiveness of the board’s contribution to strategic direction.

The results, which are treated confidentially, are analysed and interpreted by our consultants who feedback the findings and highlight important issues with the Chairman, key board personnel, or the entire board.

Where applicable we can include more participants in the survey; within the company it may, for example, be relevant and useful to get the views of key management personnel operating below board level. Externally it is often interesting to canvas important stakeholders such as investors and funders.

Our team of consultants have extensive experience across a wide range of sectors. Richard Boot, who is also IRC UK chairman, led KPMG’s management consulting business, chaired the Centre for Manufacturing and also KPMG’s Automotive Practice. Graham Smith was management consulting partner at KPMG and head of global engineering and industrial products. He led the UK management consulting business. Jean Pousson has a background in banking and finance and has carried out extensive strategic consulting for major industrials. Gary Cowdrill is a board level finance executive with wide experience in acquisitions and disposals and has provided strategic advice for property development and financial services organisations and Ian Squires is a former broadcaster and television executive with a number of senior management roles to his names at the BBC, ITV and the independent sector. He has also chaired theatre boards and has worked extensively in the charity and not-for-profit areas.

Director Appraisal & Mentoring

As an adjunct to board appraisal and succession planning, IRC UK offers individual appraisals of directors and senior managers. Having a process that sits outside of the normal and routine performance review and one carried out by independent assessors can highlight hidden strengths and weaknesses in boards and senior teams. It can be helpful when done alongside strategy reviews as a ‘sense check’ to make sure the right skills base and personality mix exist in the senior team. We can also work with individuals to assist in their career development.


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