Tell us something about yourself and your experience to date on boards
I’m an accountant by trade and initially spent around 15 years in practice before I made the switch and moved into the public sector – and specifically the regulatory environment – in 2007. Over time, workstreams in ComReg have evolved that need corporate governance skills and I’ve become the go-to guy here for that.
What is the background to you doing the UCD Diploma in Corporate Governance and why did you choose Smurfit?
I was asked to lead a review of Eircom’s regulatory governance structures – looking at how it was treating other telephone operators that wanted access to its equipment. It was a technical project but there was also a governance element to it.
I saw it as an ideal opportunity to develop my governance skills. I was very conscious of the scale and importance of the project so I wanted to upskill for it.
I had a look around at the various programmes and courses available and couldn’t find one that had the same depth and breadth as the Diploma in Corporate Governance. The Smurfit programme looked very good and I felt it was sufficiently heavy duty. And I was up for that – I’ve always had an interest in further education and have done various degrees and other courses in my own time.
It also came recommended by people from within and outside ComReg who had previously done it.
What was your experience of doing the programme?
I found it very, very good. I particularly liked the mix in the class. Before I started I assumed the vast majority of participants would be accountants, but there were just six out of a class of around 30 – we also had lawyers, engineers and doctors. The range of skills and experience made it really interesting. Also, those who were there wanted to be there.
Nobody hogged the limelight, which was great. When it came to a technical accounting discussion, for example, all the accountants stayed quiet so the others could try to understand what was going on.
What was the key takeaway for you?
It was really to do with identifying risk. I’m not the ultimate decision maker in ComReg, but I do feed conclusions up to those who do make the decisions. So I’m constantly looking at risk and exposure – the reputational risk for ComReg, as well as the risk to the consumer and the risk of getting sued. That’s at the forefront of everything I look at.
It was probably something I was already aware of to some extent but the diploma really brought it out and that to me was the main benefit.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for boards at the moment?
I am currently assisting the manager of a community centre that’s in receipt of state funding. I attend board meetings as his advisor but make it clear that I can’t make decisions or provide certain levels of input as my wife is the auditor.
On the charity side, it’s getting people who are interested and know what they’re doing. It’s hard to attract people who will do something of value, rather than making up the numbers. One of the problems is that people who join these boards often don’t really know why they’re there.
Do you have any plans to join boards in future?
I’ve recently started to look at Stateboards.ie and I would like to do non-executive work because it’s something that interests me and I think I can bring value. Working in the public sector you get a sense of putting the consumer front and centre and that’s what I enjoy.