KPMG savages non-executives

ONE OF Britain's most senior accountants has issued a fierce attack on the complacency of non-executive directors after a survey found that they are underpaid, undertrained, too old and ignorant about developments such as the Internet.

The survey, by KPMG, also showed that the ranks of non-executives are overwhelmingly dominated by men. The third four-yearly survey of non-executives, which drew replies from 130 directors, from private companies to FTSE 100 members, found that just 6 per cent of the respondents were female.

Gerry Acher, senior partner at KPMG's London office, said British businesses faced a desperate lack of the good non-executives needed if they were to keep up with the upheavals of the global marketplace. Companies must ditch the "gravy train" view of this role as being a "nice retirement job involving 10 City lunches a year".

Mr Acher also criticised non-executives for being far too passive in requesting information from their companies. "They act like mushrooms in a cupboard with the door opened every now and then and more manure thrown over them," he said. He added that far too many are in their 50s and 60s, and the IT revolution had completely passed many of them by.

The survey found that non-executives were spending less time on corporate governance issues than four years ago. Instead they were concentrating more on strategic issues, which Mr Acher said was vital if medium-sized companies, in particular, are to survive the IT revolution and globalisation.

However, the survey notes that there are still a "significant minority" of directors who are not following accepted procedures, five years after the Cadbury reforms were published.

Companies face greater competition than ever to find good quality non- execs. Mr Acher says the answer was to increase non-executive pay.

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