The latest “Boardroom Pulse” survey, conducted by Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann, shows that 89 per cent of chairmen agreed that a lack of commercial experience among politicians is inhibiting British business.“Our standard of political assistance to businesses is truly appalling and the major parties should ‘sub-contract’ this element to tried and tested business professionals (retired if necessary)”, said one FTSE 100 leader. As another chairman put it: “This is a wider concern than just about British business. The current crop of politicians has very limited experience of the world outside the corridors of power.”
Dominic Schofield, senior client partner at Korn/Ferry’s board practice, says that an “overwhelming majority” of FTSE 100 leaders agree: “It seems clear that something needs to be done to tap into the business expertise available in order to improve the political decision-making process around issues affecting the economy and the wider business world.”
On whether or not the UK is experiencing a sustainable economic recovery, opinions are more divided – just 61 per cent of FTSE 100 leaders agree that it is.
One chairman agreed “subject to the Euro not falling into crisis” and another thought that the Chancellor was “doing the right thing” by “diverting resources to the private sector”. However, another respondent believed that “the Coalition Government is failing to deliver on policies to set the economy on an even keel.”
Foreign and private equity ownership of UK utility companies
The survey also covered the issue of foreign and private equity ownership of UK utility companies. Less than half of respondents (44 per cent) agreed that this ownership trend has led to an over-emphasis on financial return at the expense of customer and societal contribution, while more than half (56 per cent) disagreed.
One chairman argued that most remedial work and investment in infrastructure has taken place since privatisation and that “the track record of privatised utilities is better than under state / public ownership”, whatever the nationality of the owners.
Others argued that the role of the regulatory regime is to protect the interests of the customer and that regulators and government agencies “have the collective power to ensure the interests of all stakeholders are properly balanced,” whatever the domicile of utility company owners.
There was division on whether there are any business sectors that should never be foreign-owned, with half agreeing and half disagreeing.
One chairman recommended that “businesses which are critical to the UK’s national infrastructure” should never be foreign-owned and another made the same point about “certain defence companies”, but another suggested that “economic ownership of strategic infrastructure assets is less important than standards of corporate governance and transparency and long term commitment to sustainability”.
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