”In today’s business environment, companies face numerous challenges that can impact success—from emerging technologies to changing regulatory requirements and cybersecurity concerns. As a result, the expertise, experience, and diversity of perspective in the boardroom play a more critical role than ever in ensuring effective oversight. At the same time, many investors and other stakeholders are seeking influence on board composition. They want more information about a company’s director nominees. They also want to know that boards and their nominating and governance committees are appropriately considering director tenure, board diversity and the results of board self-evaluations when making director nominations. All of this is occurring within an environment of aggressive shareholder activism, in which board composition often becomes a central focus………”
”Summary: What is the link between disruption and gender diversity? Innovation. In our experience, the way to spark innovation is to harness the power of different ideas from diverse groups of people who are supported by an inclusive culture. Part of this equation is gender diversity.
Companies that want to survive these challenging times will need to tap into a range of opinions, ideas and experiences. Successful leaders must anticipate and address the sweeping changes in global demographics and advances in technology to create an environment where people and ideas flourish. And improving gender diversity, not only in senior leadership but also across the talent pipeline, can help…. ”
Seth Fischer, chief investment officer and portfolio manager at Oasis Management, discusses Japan’s corporate governance, the effectiveness of Abenomics and where he sees opportunities. He speaks to Bloomberg’s Rishaad Salamat on “Trending Business.” (Source: Bloomberg)
”Historically, shareholder activism has rarely been successful at Japanese companies. However, as Japan moves closer to a Western model of corporate governance, shareholders may be playing a larger role in the strategy and leadership of some Japanese companies. This has recently been exemplified by the apparent influence of Daniel Loeb, from the hedge fund Third Point, on the leadership of Seven & i Holdings (“the Company”), which holds its annual general meeting on Thursday, May 26.
”The growing demands on corporate boards are transforming boardrooms globally, with directors taking on a more strategic, dynamic and responsive role to help steer their companies through a hypercompetitive and volatile business environment. Economic and political uncertainties make long-term planning more difficult. The proliferation of cyber attacks — and their consequences for business in financial losses and reputational damage — increases the scope of risk oversight. A rise in institutional and activist shareholder activity requires boards to identify vulnerabilities in board renewal and performance and, in some cases, establish protocols for engagement. And all of these demands have pushed issues around board composition and diversity to the fore, as boards cannot afford to have directors around the table who aren’t delivering value.
”As the frequency and severity of cyber attacks against global businesses continue to escalate, both companies and their investors are coming to terms with a grim reality: Data breaches, or cyber incidents, are no longer a matter of if but when. Having put to rest rose-colored notions of eliminating this threat, investors are looking to boards for leadership in addressing the risks and mitigating the damage associated with cyber incidents.
Cybersecurity is an integral component of a board’s role in risk oversight. Directors have the authority, capacity and responsibility to make pivotal contributions in this area by ensuring adequate resources and management expertise are allocated to robust cyber risk management policies and practices, and ensuring disclosure fairly and accurately portrays material cyber risks and incidents.
”The Japanese equity market has been under pressure recently from a strengthening currency, a weakening global economy and the uncertainty caused by the Bank of Japan’s introduction in late January of a negative interest rate policy. We recognise these concerns, but think that the fears of many market participants are overdone.
As value investors we still see Japan as a fertile hunting ground.
A far greater percentage of listed companies have net cash on their balance sheets in Japan than in any other major market and net cash represents a greater percentage of market capitalisation, as shown below. Furthermore, many of those companies have significant unrealised gains on real estate holdings; and many have large holdings of listed equities, some for strategic business purposes, but some for no reason other than historic relationships.
The question that has occupied the minds of value investors like us has been how that value can be unlocked, used more efficiently and returned to investors when not needed for operational purposes. In that regard, we think that 2015 was a pivotal year for listed Japanese companies.
An excerpt from an article on the somewhat unique situation at Cookpad. We don’t think we have seen a story like this before, at least not recently.
”(Bloomberg) — A spat is rocking one of Japan’s most popular Internet companies after the founder moved to kick out the board, enraging staff and sending shares tumbling.
Akimitsu Sano, who owns 44 percent of Cookpad Inc., shocked investors in January by calling on them to dump all other directors of the recipe-sharing site, saying the company was neglecting its main business. The stock fell 23 percent in one day and has whipsawed with each new skirmish in a battle to control a firm with more than 85 million monthly website users.
Facing exile, as Sano’s stake in effect meant he could unilaterally replace them, the then board sought to negotiate a compromise, and by February reached an agreement for some members to retain roles. Nine directors — Sano, five of his picks and three others from the previous board — were anointed by shareholders at the annual meeting in March.
An article by BDTI’s Representative Director Professor Kenichi Osugi:
Up until very recently, discussion of corporate governance was only relevant to certain academics and the IR representatives of listed companies. However, since the Japanese government cited improvements to corporate governance as being a part of its “Abenomics” policy, corporate governance has become a broad-reaching topic that cannot be ignored by listed companies and their executives. Specifically, organizations such as the Financial Services Agency and Tokyo Stock Exchange have formulated the ”Stewardship Code” (February 2014) and the ”Corporate Governance Code” (June 2015), and listed companies and institutional investors were forced to respond to these codes of conduct………”
‘‘Summary: This paper will introduce the overview of the results of a questionnaire survey of Japanese domestic investment managers that have signed the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI) conducted by Nikko Research Center , for the purpose of clarifying the state of environmental, social, and government (ESG) investment in Japan. Until now, ESG investment market research has focused on investment products designed for individual investors and the state of investments including those by institutional investors was never fully understood. From the results of this survey, we learned that ESG investment assets in Japan amount to 46.0 trillion yen, which is an amount that greatly exceeds the scale of individual investor-focused financial products known up until now. In addition, among the ESG investment approaches , the engagement/proxy voting was dominant. After examining the personnel structure related to ESG investment institutions, it was revealed that many institutions have the most personnel devoted to proxy voting operations. Furthermore, an examination into the characteristics of the clientele revealed that institutional investors such as pension funds are the main players in Japanese ESG investment.