Nordic Board Study 2022

DEINext Generation BoardsIndustry TrendsDiversityCulture RiskBoard and CEO Advisory
Article Icon Article
Tommi Lankila
August 24, 2022
8 min read
DEINext Generation BoardsIndustry TrendsDiversityCulture RiskBoard and CEO Advisory
Executive Summary
A detailed look at board composition and governance in companies of the four leading Nordic stock indices in 2022.
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As Europe tries to recover from Covid-19 and adjust to war in Ukraine, these shifts seem to have had negligible effects on Nordic boards. This year’s Nordic Board Study examines current quantitative board demographics, including diversity, tenure, age, renewal, meeting frequency, and compensation. As in previous years, Russell Reynolds Associates collected data across four main Indexes in Denmark (Copenhagen OMXC20), Finland (Helsinki OMXH25), Norway (Oslo OBX25), and Sweden (Stockholm OMXS30). The dataset was collected from February to June 2022.1

Gender diversity progress is visible, but women still occupy less than 40% of Nordic boards seats

Since 2016, the share of women on Nordic boards has risen from an average of 34.2% to an average of 39.2% in 2022, with incremental annual improvements. While the women representation in Oslo is currently down, this is a result of the stock reshuffling that took place in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Overall, Norway leads the region with six companies (Telenor, Aker ASA, Kahoot!, Orkla, Rec Silicon, Yara International) that have over 50% share of women on their boards. Finland, on the contrary, has only one company (Nordea) whose board has reached gender parity.

Despite the steady rise in women board members over the years, women representation on boards still lags behind men’s. Denmark and Finland saw highest increase in women representation on this front—in Denmark, women committee chairs rose from 20% in 2021 to 27% in 2022, while deputy chairs decreased from 20% to 17%. In Finland, women committee chairs rose from 31% in 2021 to 35% in 2022 and deputy chairs rose from 22% to 36%. Oslo saw the steepest drop in deputy chairs from 33% (2021) to 11% (2022).

However, Norway has the highest number of women board chairs (16%), while Finland claims only 4%. Denmark and Sweden both report 8%. Since there are few board positions, even one women member makes an impact in the percentages. That said, the void-of-women in certain positions of power cannot be denied.

Women Representation on Nordic Boards (2020-2022)

Figure1

Source: RRA Nordic Board Benchmarking, 2022; n = 99 Nordic OMX/OBX indexed companies

Age and Tenure

The average age of Nordic board members has not altered much since last year’s study. Boards are mainly dominated by men between ages 59 to 61. Both Denmark and Sweden have the oldest and longest serving board members—in Denmark, 45% of the board members are older than 60. In Sweden, 52% of board members are ages 60 or older. Finland and Norway have the youngest boards in this respect. If we investigate tenures, women across all Nordic boards serve almost a year and a half less than their male colleagues. Compared to other Nordic countries, Finland tends to rotate their board members almost a year earlier than the other countries.

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Source: RRA Nordic Board Benchmarking, 2022; n = 99 Nordic OMX/OBX indexed companies

Nationality

Since 2020, we have noted a slight increase in Nordic board internationalization. It is still rare to see representation from other regions, such as Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Africa, or Americas. Then again, this internationalization is highly dependent on business needs; for example, local-market businesses tend to rely more on local talent, such as financial services (Nordic: Non-Nordic ratio is 86:14) and consumer/food (80:20). If we compare to global logistics (58:32) or oil/gas (61:39), we notice that the need for international board members is much higher. Other Nordic global businesses, such as pulp & paper (71:29) and industrial goods (73:27), stand in the middle ground.

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Source: RRA Nordic Board Benchmarking, 2022; n = 99 Nordic OMX/OBX indexed companies

Board member background

Regarding individual board member background highlights, Sweden has the highest number of board members who serve on two locally or in other Nordic major indices. 16.9% of Swedish board members hold two seats compared to Finland’s 13.5%, Denmark’s 13%, and Norway’s 11.2%. In the big picture, only 1.9% of all Nordic board members hold three or more positions in the main Nordic indices. These numbers only reflect major Nordic index boards and do not consider any other possible board memberships.

As for current board member’s background, we find certain national traits to highlight. For example, Finland favors current sitting CEOs in their boards. However, sitting CEO percentage dipped from 16% (2021) to 13% (2022). Denmark has the highest amount (5%) of board members coming from currently serving CFO-positions. Norway favors non-executive board members (e.g., specialists or other full-time occupations), as 24% of board members hold other full-time occupations, compared to 9% to 15% of board members from other Nordic regions. Sweden has the highest amount of people who have gone plural, as 71% of their boards consist of pure board professionals. This goes hand in hand with the fact that Swedish boards are, on average, the most senior.

Figure5

Source: RRA Nordic Board Benchmarking, 2022; n = 99 Nordic OMX/OBX indexed companies

Slight decreases in board meetings and increases in compensation

On average, Nordic boards meet roughly once per month. Finland leads with the highest amounts of board meetings compared to any other Nordic country. In 2021, 54% of Finnish boards met more than 12 times a year and 4% met a staggering 19 times. While these numbers are high, they were even higher in 2020, with 75% of Finnish boards meeting more than 12 times and a quarter meeting more than 19 times.

Boards in other Nordic countries met significantly less often. In Norway, 41% of boards met more than 12 times per year (versus 35% in 2020); in Sweden, 38% met more than 12 times per year (50% in 2020); and in Denmark, only 29% met monthly (35% in 2020). After the first wave of the pandemic, the Finnish boards have decreased their average annual meetings from 16 to 13, while the other Nordic countries were barely affected in terms of meeting schedules. Even so, if we compare to the German DAX 40—of which, over three quarters of companies met less than nine times per year—the Nordic boards require a great deal of participation.

Figure6

Source: RRA Nordic Board Benchmarking, 2022; n = 99 Nordic OMX/OBX indexed companies

As we pointed out last year, busy meeting schedules across Nordic boards also drops the average compensation per meeting. In 2022, the German DAX 40 boards compensated their members on average 15,800 Euros per meeting (compared to 15,100 in 2021). In Sweden, the average pay per meeting was 8,800€ (up from 7,200€ in 2021); in Denmark, it was 6,300€ (up from 6,000€); in Finland, 6,000€ (4,700€); and in Norway, it was 4,500€ (3,700€). Notably, all Nordic countries saw an increase in their board fees per meeting. Finland’s 28% rise is significant even on a European level while Sweden and Norway follow with their 22% rise against last year. Denmark saw a minimal increase of 5%. Compared to last year, per-meeting-increases in other indices were Swiss SMI 15%, Swiss SMIM 23%, and DAX 40 5%. Hence, Nordic boards—with exception of Denmark— followed the same trend as in Switzerland.

Figure7

Source: RRA Nordic Board Benchmarking, 2022; n = 99 Nordic OMX/OBX indexed companies

Conclusion

This year’s Nordic Board Study found that:

  1. Women representation in the Nordic main indices has progressed and follows the trend from previous years. However, women are still underrepresented on Nordic boards.
  2. Nordic boards have become a bit more international, with their composition mainly drawing from other Nordic or European nationalities. Here, the business sector dictates the need for international vs. local expertise.
  3. Board fees per meeting rose in the Nordic boards, though the average meeting schedule was barely affected. Only Finland saw a major decrease in board meetings.

Appendix: Changes in the OMX/OBX company mix since 2021 study

Current board changes in the indices were: 1) in Denmark, Jyske Bank returns to the list and Simcorp fell off. 2) In Finland, last year’s rising company, the Metso spin-off Neles went off the list together with Kemira and Metsä Board. Qt and Harvia rose with SSAB. 3) In Norway, we see drastic changes with rise of Golden Ocean, Nordic Semiconductor, Adevinta, Kahoot!, MPC Container Ships, Recsilicon, while BW LPG, BW Offshore, DNO, Entra, Leroy, and TGS dropped off. 4) In Sweden, Securitas gave space for Sinch.

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Click here to read our Nordic Board Study 2021.

 


Authors

Dr. Tommi Lankila is a member of Russell Reynolds Associates Board and CEO practice. He is based in Helsinki.

 

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