Shareholder Supervisory Board Member at Glen Dimplex
Shareholder Supervisory Board Member at Glen Dimplex, Fiona Naughton completed the UCD Diploma in Corporate Governance at UCD Smurfit School in 2019.
Tell us something about yourself and your experience on boards
After studying economics and politics in UCD I ran my own business – a travel agency – for 10 years. Then I took a few years off when my children were young.
During that time I was invited to join various boards of directors, including the Dublin International Piano Competition and Feis Ceoil. I was also chairperson of the board of trustees of All Hallows College until it closed in 2016.
Then, around two and a half years ago, my family company, Glen Dimplex, was in the process of being reorganised and I was asked to join its shareholder supervisory board.
Why did you decide to do the Diploma in Corporate Governance?
I realised I needed to improve my skillset and to learn more about being on a board. It’s very important when you’re a director that you have something to contribute to that specific board and company. You shouldn’t be there as a tokenism.
I wanted to make sure I was actually qualified to be on the board of Glen Dimplex and wasn’t just there because I was a family member.
I’d known for some time that the UCD programme has a very good reputation and the timing was right last year for me to do it.
What was your experience of the programme?
I really enjoyed the programme and learned an awful lot. We were given so much valuable information on all the different aspects of being on a board. We covered a broader range of subjects and in much more depth than I expected. It was a big time commitment - more than I expected - but it was definitely worth sticking at.
How has doing the course impacted you as a board member?
Everything I have learned has made me much more confident on the board of Glen Dimplex. And it’s also been very useful for my other board roles.
There are so many more requirements now for directors than when I first got involved with the Dublin International Piano Competition. Board members are required to contribute a lot more and to know a lot more and I think doing the diploma has helped me on both counts.
Also, I think people take you more seriously when you have a qualification like this.
What do you see as your main challenges as a board member?
I think the main challenge is to keep myself up-to-date with current best practice and to make sure I know what’s going on. It’s not just about preparing for the board meetings just before they happen. I think it’s important to keep up to date with current issues in the wider industry of the company you are involved in.
Because Glen Dimplex is a heating company I need to be reading about environmental issues, changes in legislation and geopolitical developments, as well as relevant trends.
Why is diversity so important on boards?
Diversity is always a good thing on boards, whether it’s a mix of genders, career experiences or just ways of thinking to avoid group think and tunnel vision.
On the boards of Dublin International Piano Competition and the Feis Ceoil, some of the board members are music teachers or pianists and have experience of playing in competitions around the world. But we also have people from legal, accounting and PR backgrounds who bring different skillsets and insights. It would be wonderful if they were all music people but in reality without the accounting we’d be absolutely snookered.
Would you recommend the Diploma in Corporate Governance to others?
I already have. I think it’s very useful for anyone considering taking up a role on a board.
Doing the course you realise how many expectations and legal obligations are on you when you become a director. I think people often don’t know that and wander willy-nilly onto boards.
Do you have plans for further study?
When I started last year I was just planning to do this diploma. But then I discovered that if you complete three out of a set of 11 diplomas within five years, you are awarded an MSc in Business (Leadership & Management Practice). So, I’ll be doing the Diploma in Strategy, Development and Innovation next year and then I’ll do a third programme that will also be relevant to my job and get me my masters.