Friday, December 16, 2011

Governance: The Directors on RIM's Board

The failure of RIM isn't just a failure of management, strategy and execution. It's also a massive failure of governance.

While it's likely there's a phone call or two going on behind the scenes, RIM's Director's have clearly failed to influence the failed trajectory of this once-great company. Even by RIM's own definition of the role of the Board, it's easy to argue that RIM's Directors have been MIA.

So who are these people? Are they just a bunch of Mike and Jim's buddies - maybe a hockey player, a cyclist and a mad-scientist or two? Maybe they are a couple of local machine shop operators from Waterloo's past who stumbled onto the RIM rocket ship and don't know what do now that the gyros have gone loopy?

Well actually not.

Barbara Stymiest is the ex-CEO of the TSX. According to the RIM information circular, Stymiest serves as a member of the Group Executive of the Royal Bank which is responsible for the overall strategic direction of the bank! She's a member of the George Weston Board.

Roger Martin is a Dean and Professor of Strategy (!) at the Rotman School of Business! He also sits on the Board of Thomson Reuters.

According to RIM's info circular, Claudia Kotcha is "an independent consultant to Fortune 500 companies on innovation, strategy and design".

Innovation, strategy and design! That's like the triumvirate of doom for RIM.

So. Is there any governance experience on the RIM Board?

Well, there's John Richardson. This isn't exactly his first rodeo. From the RIM info circular:

"He was appointed Chairman of the Ontario Pension Board in July 2004 and retired from that position at
the end of his three year term in June 2007. Mr. Richardson was Deputy Chairman of London Insurance Groups Inc., Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Wellington Insurance, and Chairman of
London Guarantee Insurance Company. He was a past board member with The Insurance Bureau
of Canada and the Facility Association. In addition to the public board memberships indicated
below, Mr. Richardson is currently the Chairman of Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co."

Others on the RIM Board have similar great experience.

John Wetmore is the former President and CEO of IBM Canada. He currently sits on the Board of Loblaw.

Antonio Viana-Baptista is an ex-McKinsey consulting guru and sits on four other Boards in the telecom space.

And then there are the two co-CEO's.

It's obviously difficult to believe that a Board with this much experience is simply sitting around and watching things pile down on top of them. However, shareholders must be wondering what the Board is up to, especially now that it's clear there may be no bottom for the share price.

One also wonders about the impact on personal reputations given what's already happened or what might happen to RIM's business. What does it say for a Dean of the Rotman Business School? Or a Director of Loblaw? Or someone tied so closely to the Royal Bank? Many people didn't realize that Stymeist and Martin are even on the RIM Board. Just from a self-preservation perspective you might think they would find a way to either step up - or away - from what's happening.

 For shareholders it can't be too soon for someone to do something.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Burning Issues! Swampland in Florida, Women's Networking, More

  • Just back from Florida. Sarasota. Got to chat with an actual banker (Iberia) at a bar in Sarasota. He told me that real estate in Florida still isn't going anywhere fast. Don't rush. He's renting a 2 bedroom condo (owns a home elsewhere in Florida) in a beautiful building just up the street from the Ritz in Sarasota. Price? $1300 all in including TV!
  • Long discussions with a friend in the financial services business. Key issue he's seeing - his top producers are getting old. A large number of them will be retiring in the next 10 years. Tradition in the industry the past few years has been filling gaps by stealing from other firms, not train newbies. That's not going to work much longer - they're all getting old. So, big question - how to ramp young blood and get them ready to take on some great great, demanding clients. My advice - look outside the industry at how others intake large numbers and get them ready. Start now.
  • Women's networking is on my mind as a result of our work here at Boardroom Metrics. Women want to be with women. It makes them more comfortable. Which I guess is why there are so many women's networking groups. So let me ask a taboo question - are women/how much are women doing themselves a disfavour networking primarily with women? Even if women hold 50% of the top jobs in corporate North America (which they don't), isn't it better to network with women AND MEN? Just asking.
  • RIM is still around. For those not into Canadian cheerleading of the Company, here's today's article from Forbes. Bottom line. There are no buyers and there is no bottom.

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