Board members need information to deal with unanticipated situations: Horowitz

Mar 07, 2014
The ICD-Rotman Directors Education Program is the leading national program for experienced directors in Canada. ICD's Director Journal recently spoke to some of these alumni about their DEP experience and how they’ve applied the course learning to their board work. 

Director, HSBC Bank Canada
The challenges that go with the kinds of decisions that have to be made by a board of directors was made crystal clear to 2009 DEP graduate Beth Horowitz when a real-life situation faced by the board at Apple Inc. became part of classroom discussion when she took the course.

It had to do with Apple having to balance the duty to make it clear to stakeholders that founder Steve Jobs was seriously ill with cancer - a disease that ultimately killed him in 2012 - and Jobs’ right to privacy during a time of personal crisis. Ultimately, says Horowitz, the Apple board of directors “made the correct decision” in deciding that Jobs’ illness was material information that had to be made public.
“It really was one of those times when, as a board member, you have to do some serious soul-searching,” says Horowitz. “You realize then that board members need the information and decision making tools to deal with these types of unanticipated situations.”
Luckily for her, Horowitz says, the DEP has helped her acquire the tools to be able to make those kinds of tough decisions. “Being part of the Directors Education Program and having some valuable discussion on real life situations highlights one of the incredible benefits of the program.”
Horowitz is the former Chair, President & CEO of Amex Bank of Canada, having spent 22 years with American Express in a variety of leadership roles. In 2009, Ms. Horowitz was appointed to the HSBC Bank Canada Board and sits on its audit and risk committee.
She also serves on the Art Gallery of Ontario's Board of Trustees and as an adviser for a number of organizations, including the Schulich School of Business, Catalyst Canada and the Women's Venture Capital Fund.
Despite having previous experience sitting on corporate and non-profit boards, Horowitz says the DEP gave her insight into situations boards face that she had not yet encountered. One such example was learning more about a board’s role when it comes to dealing with a merger and acquisition.

Says Horowitz: “Whether you’re someone who has already sat on boards, someone who interacts with boards, or someone who one day wants to sit on a board, I can think of no better way than taking the DEP for rounding out an education in what it means to be a board member.”

Source: ICD Director Journal

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