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Nordics Boards Are Role Models for Supporting Value Creation, Study Finds

A BCG Study of Nordic Companies, Which Consistently Rank Among the World’s Top Value Creators, Offers Insights into How Companies in All Regions Can Promote Long-Term Success

OSLO—A study by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that the best practices of Nordic companies serve as a model for companies in other regions that seek to promote value creation through active ownership and greater board involvement in strategy and value creation. The study also identified clear improvement areas for Nordic companies. The study’s findings are detailed in a new BCG report, How Nordic Boards Create Exceptional Value. The report is being released today.

The study, which included a survey of more than 100 CEOs and nonexecutive board members of leading Nordic companies, as well as interviews with more than 50 CEOs, chairs, and nonexecutive board members, found that Nordic boards play an active role in shaping their companies’ strategic direction. The survey respondents overwhelmingly supported the propositions that Nordic boards add value to their companies (86%) and contribute effectively to strategy (84%).

“With returns consistently above global averages, Nordic companies offer a role model for value creation,” says Knut Olav Rød, a BCG partner and coauthor of the report. “We believe their success is attributable, in part, to a unique governance structure that allows nonexecutive boards to drive value creation and actively steer the company.”

While previous research on the nonexecutive board’s role has primarily considered mechanistic governance issues, this study is distinctive for focusing on best practices for the board’s role in value creation. Although the research considered only Nordic companies, the findings are relevant globally.

Boards Must Engage More Actively to Understand the Business

An overwhelming 80% of board members and almost 90% of CEOs stated that the board should spend more time on strategy and value creation. The ineffective allocation of time appears to impede some board members from understanding the business as well as they ought to. The report suggests that the lack of deep business understanding is also linked to a failure to engage actively with customers and management below the CEO:

  • More than 70% of CEOs and 60% of board members do not think their board engages actively with the company’s top customers.
  • Only half of the CEOs surveyed believe their board engages actively with the management one to two levels below the CEO.

However, these results differ depending on the ownership model, with implications for talent management and succession planning:

  • Of companies with a clear anchor owner, 77% of boards interact with management below the CEO, compared with 53% in companies with dispersed ownership.
  • Of companies with anchor owners, 67% of boards consider themselves to be effective in talent management and succession planning, compared with 50% for companies with dispersed ownership.

Concerns about Nordic boards’ capabilities were especially prominent with respect to digitization:

  • More than 80% of respondents believe that digitization will deeply affect their company, yet only 50% think that their board has the right skills to support the management in digital topics.
  • Fewer than 50% think that their company has a clear digital strategy and roadmap in place, and only slightly more than 50% think that their board is actively pushing the digital agenda.

For further information, please contact Eric Gregoire at +1 617 850 3783 or gregoire.eric@bcg.com.

About Boston Consulting Group

Boston Consulting Group partners with leaders in business and society to tackle their most important challenges and capture their greatest opportunities. BCG was the pioneer in business strategy when it was founded in 1963. Today, we help clients with total transformation—inspiring complex change, enabling organizations to grow, building competitive advantage, and driving bottom-line impact.

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