Boardman’s Survey 2024 on International Board Members

Boardman’s Survey 2024 on International Board Members

In November of last year, Boardman asked its members for their opinions on international board members. The survey aims to understand how members of the Boardman network view international board members. Is there a perceived need for them in companies? If yes, why, and if not, why not?

The survey results will be utilized to shape the Boardman Membership, the latest membership category within Boardman, designed specifically for international executives who are originally from outside Finland but work as business executives or board members in Finland or Finnish companies.

The goal of this membership is to facilitate the exchange of knowledge about Finnish board work among international executives and to help them network with Finnish business management.

This was the first time the survey was conducted. Boardman plans to conduct the survey annually from now on.

Case: No international board members

In the survey, an international board member or chairperson was referred to as a person who has come to Finland from abroad and whose native language is not Finnish. 58 percent of the respondents indicated that their company’s board does not have international members.

Of these companies, 38 percent saw a need for an international board member within the next five years. In open-ended responses, respondents mentioned that an international board member brings new ideas and diversity to the board. They also noted the need for international expertise as operations become more global and Finland’s skill level is perceived to be falling behind.

Do you see the need to get international board members to the board in the next five years? N=21.

Another 38 percent of the respondents expressed that there is no need for an international expert on the board in the next five years. Reasons given included negative past experiences with international experts and a domestic customer base.

When companies without international board members were questioned about their main concerns regarding recruiting international board members, issues highlighted in open responses included worries about the costs of flights and accommodations for international experts. There were also concerns about where to find suitable international experts, how board work would proceed once the language switched to English, and how to attract international experts when board fees are low.

Why there is need for an international board member or members in your board?

An international member brings diversity to the board and introduces new perspectives to the business.

The operations are becoming more international, and Finland’s level of expertise is falling behind.

Why there’s no need an international board member or members in your board?

We had a Swedish board partner, and the cultural difference felt unpleasant in practical work. He was expensive, and coordinating schedules with flights became challenging, along with costly accommodations.

The company’s customer base is domestic and represents a very narrow industry.

Why I don’t know if there’s need an international board member or members in your board?

At this stage, our service’s focus is predominantly in Finland, where there is still a significant market to capture. However, when the situation arises, and expansion into other Nordic countries approaches, examining this matter will become relevant.

We do not see it as essential for the perspective of growth.

Case: International members on the board

Out of the respondents to the survey, 42 percent reported that their companies have international board members. The survey indicated that if a board had international members, they often had more than one. In 80 percent of these companies, there were at least two international board members.

Out of the companies with international board members, 40 percent had an international chairperson.

The majority of international board members came from Sweden, followed by Denmark. Interestingly, there was only one international board member from Estonia, which contrasts with the findings of Tesi’s study.

The Tesi’s study reports that Estonians represent the most common nationality among international board members in Finland. It also notes that the proportion of Swedish members is increasing rapidly, which aligns with the results from Boardman’s survey.

Seven companies had an international board member from Sweden. N=15.

Among the companies with existing international board members, 46,7 percent believed that the number of international members on their company’s board should be increased in the next five years. Interestingly, the same percentage, 46,7, felt that there was no need to increase the number of international board members.

The justification for the need for international board members was the company’s internationalization and global operations. In some companies, the need to increase their number of international board members was not seen as necessary because the owner did not want it, and the size of the company and its export activities were relatively small, indicating that there was no requirement for additional international board members.

Respondents reported that international board members bring sector-specific knowledge and expertise in international trade to their boards. International board members are top professionals in their fields, possessing networks related to internationalization.

What do international board members bring to the board? Open answers. N=15.

Expertise in the industry and international business.

Industry expertise, technology know-how, strategic competence, international business expertise.

Top-tier knowledge in the field.

Knowledge of the Swedish market.

Broader market understanding and operational models from peer countries.

What kind of wishes respodents had for Boardman?

Respondents had several wishes for Boardman network:

  • More events in English and networking opportunities with international experts.
  • Training and coaching for international experts on the duties and legal responsibilities of board members in Finland.
  • Peer groups discussing the practicalities of acquiring an international board member.
  • Case study events where companies that have recruited international board members share their experiences, discussing the added value international board members have brought to their boards.

Boardman’s note. Boardman is organizing more and more events in English. For example, ”How to get board position in Finland?” is organized 6.2.2024. Boardman is also already organizing an English-language board work training. Next training starts on 13.2.2024. Read more here.

Basic information about the survey

The survey was open from November 14 to November 26, 2023. It was sent via email to 676 members of the Boardman network and the survey link was shared in Boardman’s newsletters. Respondents were asked to select one company on behalf of which they were responding to the survey.

The survey was answered by representatives of 36 different companies. The majority of responses came from board chairpersons, board members, and owners.

Respondents represented micro-enterprises (14% of respondents), small businesses (30%), medium-sized enterprises (25%), and large enterprises (31%).

The respondents came from a variety of sectors. However, other service sectors (22% of respondents), information and communication (19%), and manufacturing (14%) accounted for just over half of the responses.

More information: Karoliina Kuhalampi, karoliina.kuhalampi@boardman.fi