Westminster Business Forum

Corporate governance in the UK - the impact of reforms, shareholder relations and boardroom composition

Morning, Wednesday, 26th February 2020

Central London


This seminar will discuss the future for corporate governance in the UK and comes at a time of increased scrutiny and pressure from regulators, government, investors and the public.

The agenda

  • The establishment of the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority and priorities for strengthening corporate governance;
  • The future for the corporate governance framework - the new regulator, the Corporate Governance Code, financial reporting reforms, and the Shareholders Rights Directive II;
  • The evolving landscape for good corporate governance - improving diversity, environment, social and governance (ESG), technology and shareholder relations; and
  • Next steps for corporate governance policy

The impact of reforms to the Corporate Governance Code and the establishment of the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority

It is timed as firms begin reporting the new requirements set out in the updated Corporate Governance Code, which places greater requirements on boards to:

  • engage with their workforce and stakeholders;
  • address long term cultural issues;
  • strengthen succession planning and diversity at board level; and
  • address concerns around executive remuneration.

The seminar also comes as the Government is expected to take forward the legislative framework to establish the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority following its consultation, which will take over the functions of the Financial Reporting Council and be granted statutory powers to enforce their rules, and additional powers to influence shareholders and fine company directors.

Delegates will consider how the new regulator can best operate in practice to strengthen corporate governance to maintain the UK’s competitive advantage in this area without placing unnecessary burden on firms.

They will also assess how successful the new code has been in strengthening corporate governance, the implications for businesses competitiveness and effectiveness and how the framework for corporate governance can best work moving forward to help prevent further corporate failings.

The agenda includes a keynote contributions from the Financial Reporting Council and Sanu de Lima, Deputy Director, Corporate Governance, Responsibility & Diversity, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Financial reporting reforms

The seminar also comes at a time of significant proposed reforms to financial reporting and auditing, as the Government consults on the CMA’s Audit Market Study and is expected to follow the publication of the Brydon review of auditing standards at a time when major auditors are beginning to no-longer offer auditing services to risky sectors.

Shareholder relations, stewardship and delivering value

The seminar comes at a time of increased shareholder activity and criticism of how some boards engage with investors, as well as how investors themselves can be incentivised to invest for the longer-term to support stable businesses and markets.

It follows the transposition of the Shareholders Rights Directive II in June 2019, which aims to:

  • encourage long term shareholder engagement;
  • enhance transparency and increase directors’ accountability;
  • reinforce the link between pay and performance; and
  • increase the scrutiny of proxy voting agencies.

Delegates will discuss how the new requirements have impacted the market and what else could be done to improve transparency and accountability - as well as consideration of whether a defined period around the time that businesses engage with investors ahead of AGMs should be introduced.

The conference is also timed to consider the revised Stewardship Code, which is expected to be published in October 2019 and is expected to include measures to encourage investors to more actively engage with the companies in which they invest.

We expect discussion on whether further powers are needed to promote compliance with the Code - as well as what further reforms may be needed to ensure that the code is fit for purpose and relevant to modern stewardship.  Delegates will assess the impact of a strengthened Code on the attractiveness of the UK as a place to do business, following concerns that a significantly strengthened Code may deter businesses from listing in the UK.

The seminar also comes at a time of consideration of how businesses deliver value in light of the increasing role of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in investment decisions and comes as listed companies and pension funds are expected to publish indications of the impact of climate change on their business by 2022 under the Green Finance Strategy.

Boardroom composition - diversity and stakeholder representation

Further sessions focus on the evolving landscape for the makeup of boards, as the composition of boardrooms comes under increasing pressure.

Attendees will discuss how businesses can best improve internal processes and career structures so as to support an increase in the representation of women and BAME employees on boards, alongside calls to strengthen employee and other stakeholder involvement at board level.

Responding to new technology

Sessions will also look at the increasing role of new technologies such as AI and big data and will consider how boards can best adequately address the challenges they pose to their businesses, as well as ensuring that they have sufficient expertise to respond to increasing use of these technologies and the evolving regulatory environment.

Keynote Speakers

Senior speaker confirmed from the Financial Reporting Council

Sanu de Lima

Deputy Director, Corporate Governance, Responsibility & Diversity, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Keynote Speakers

Senior speaker confirmed from the Financial Reporting Council

Sanu de Lima

Deputy Director, Corporate Governance, Responsibility & Diversity, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy


Mark Northway

Chairman, UK Individual Shareholders Society

Dr Anna Tilba

Associate Professor, Strategy and Governance, Durham University

Rowena Ironside

Chair, Women on Boards

Neville White

Head of Corporate Governance, EdenTree Investment Management

Clare Wardle

General Counsel & Company Secretary, Coca-Cola European Partners

Professor Jill Atkins

Chair in Financial Management, Sheffield University

Mario Abela

Director, Redefining Value, World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Gilly Lord

Head of Audit Strategy and Public Policy, PwC