Anthony May On Why Regulatory Boards Are Ideal For Lawyers
This week we were happy to welcome Anthony May from leading legal headhunters, Hedley May. He joined BCKR members for a mid week breakfast to speak about regulatory boards.
Hedley May has always known a lot about lawyers. It also knows a lot about the boards of regulators, frequently being called upon to find NEDs and chairmen for the numerous City regulatory bodies, such as the PRA, FCA and their various committees.
Anthony has advised major law firms, Big Four accountancy firms, FTSE 100 corporates, financial institutions and Government entities on legal search, strategic consultancy and leadership projects since 1993. Previously Anthony led the international law firm practice at Whitehead Mann, having started his career as a Corporate Financier with Chemical Bank in London and New York.
Here is a summary of what he had to say:
Regulatory boards actually come with a request for lawyers and the lawyer mindset. Other NED jobs require you to try not to be a lawyer. So the regulatory roles are a good hunting ground for lawyers.
The Regulatory boards and their committees have resulted in Hedley May placing 5 lawyers out of the 21 placed NEDs in the last year. Less than 1% of corporate NEDs are lawyers, so for once the balance is in the lawyer’s favour.
Harry Chetwin-Talbot, one of the Hedley May’s researchers, puts about 1/3 of his time into this type of recruitment, so Hedley May take it seriously. Their key clients in this area are the FCA, FRC, BofE and PRA plus their committees. Often when a board is formed, they discover that their scope is so broad that no sooner have they started that, they need to form another committee to take on a more specific role.
Why are lawyers good: the remit of each of these boards and committees is quite specific. There isn’t a traditional NED discussion of all issues but rather a quasi-judicial review process on a particular topic/ corporate aspect and often the committees themselves will have sub-panels to deal with particular review issues. Often these panels are chaired by lawyers, and nearly always they ask for a lawyer to be on the panel. It plays to a lawyer’s perceived and real strengths.
There are two types of roles – the chairs and deputy chairs, slightly more time demanding (2 or 3 days a week for chair, dep chair 2-3 days a month) but with proper salaries (at the high end for public sector posts, £100k not unusual) but as a member of the committee it’s an hourly rate where much of the work is ‘as required’. E.g. how many meetings to decide if enforcement action is required? A member’s time commitment depends on the specific business being conducted by the various panels, and whether a particular member is on a particular panel. Conflicts can be an issue, both during and after your involvement, so consider too how you want to build your NED portfolio going forward.
What are they after? Independence of thought, independent rigour, collegiate style, collaborative decision making, robustness and experience in going before senior people, analytical skills and ability to amass large amounts of info, flexibility of time, to be organised and efficient, innovation (note that this is ‘highly organised’ without your PA/ trainee etc.)
All of these bodies have a significant public service ethos. All of this is very transparent. Much is on their websites. Often the perspective is from the man in the street, not the usual corporate perspective of the City lawyer’s standard client base.
Three year terms, repeated if you’ve done well, but rarely longer.
The process: The recruitment process must be fair and transparent. They must advertise (generally in the FT, Economist and Sunday Times). For more senior ones there’s often a search attached to it. The best way is to respond to the advert despite many lawyers not wanting to expose themselves in that way.
If the regulators had their choice, they’d go straight to a panel interview having sifted CVs against the spec, and often the interview panel can know nothing about the candidate’s specialisation to question them fully on that. Instead they need to demonstrate that it’s a fair process and this motive is stronger than the need to get absolutely the right person, so the same question is asked by the same person with the same panel of interviewers in each shortlist interview. There’s no flexibility on say, interview days. Hedley May generally insists that in the interim there is an informal fireside chat, but that’s not a normal part of the process.
Pre-approved terms, once the process comes up with an answer, little room for negotiating.
Why would you do this? Taking a regulatory role can be a useful way of putting yourself on the NED radar. It allows you to demonstrate your non legal skills, your ability to work with a disparate group of people and it will enhance your CV and it can be very interesting. You’ll learn a lot, in particular because of the multi-disciplinary nature of the board. It will also give you something else to talk about
No. of applicants can be 100+, but most will easily be dismissed, but same process has to be demonstrated to be undertaken for each.
The interview process relies quite heavily on the headhunting community getting the right people onto the list. Russell Reynolds, Odgers, Saxton Bampfylde do some other regulatory appointments, but it’s a small band of headhunters.
Diversity taken more seriously in the public sector than in most private sector. In private sector, it’s merely gender. In public sector, it’s also colour, race, educational background, and sexual orientation.
Interview preparation: Normally you might look at the members of the current board and try to have a chat with someone prior to your interview but with public sector appointments there is less scope for informal interactions before the process. Direct relevance of experience is critical in getting through to the interview. You should prepare anecdotal evidence demonstrating how your skills meet their list of competencies – don’t go into your legal background. As with all interviews, you need to leave them with a hook, so that they will remember you over other candidates.