Press Release

5th DAX 30 Supervisory Board Study


June 10, 2015

​​Quality and diversity rises on DAX 30 supervisory boards, says Russell Reynolds Associates.

Leading international executive search consultancy publishes its 5th annual ‘DAX 30 Supervisory Board Study.
  • The percentage of women has grown to almost a quarter (23.7%) but tenure is down compared to men (3.6 years)
  • Deutsche Bank named number one in the ranking, as overall boards become more effective;
  • 73% of successor appointments to DAX 30 companies last year occurred early, before the end of the post-holder’s full termJust one quarter (27.7%) of supervisory board members are from outside Germany
  • 15 supervisory board members remain unchanged in their position
Munich, 10 June 2015 – Over recent years, the DAX 30 companies have managed to continuously improve their governance structures, in terms of both personnel and quality. Using an average assessment of their supervisory bodies scale from one to six - one being the best possible grade and six being the worst, the overall result achieved in 2015 was a score of 2.3. By comparison, in 2011 the score was far lower, at 2.9 (2014: 2.4; 2013: 2.6; 2012: 2.7).

These are selected findings from the “DAX 30 Supervisory Board Study” conducted by the leading international executive search consultancy Russell Reynolds Associates. The study marks the fifth time that the consultancy has examined the changes at supervisory board level amongst the 30 biggest listed companies in Germany. Biographical information about board members available online is used to analyse how well the boards are performing with regard to criteria such as “business-relevant experience”, “positions held on other boards” or “diversity”.

Gender diversity on the rise

When it comes to the women’s quota for top positions, as approved by the Bundestag (lower house of the German parliament) in March, German blue-chip companies are making good progress. Thanks to nine newly-elected women, the overall percentage of female shareholder representatives increased significantly, despite three departures from post, from 21.1% to 23.7%. In terms of these new appointments, this corresponds to a women’s quota of 39%, up from 34% in 2014.

Based on the 2015 AGMs, 13 boards have achieved the designated 30% women’s quota on the owner side. Looking ahead to the appointments set to expire at the end of their regular term and given compliance with the statutory specifications, six further boards will reach this target in 2016.

However, under the normal framing conditions it is likely to take until 2020 for the proportion of female shareholder representatives on all DAX 30 boards to be brought up to the required 30%.

Examples like Julia Kuhn-Piëch and Louise Kiesling at Volkswagen and Dr Nathalie von Siemens at Siemens​, also show us that a third of the newly-appointed supervisory board members are drawn from company-owning families.

Despite the positive trend described here, there are still significant differences between the genders when it comes to supervisory board tenure in DAX 30 companies: on average, women are in post around three years less as board members, averaging 3.6 years compared to 6.5 years. On appointment, with an average age of 52.6 they tend to be around four years younger than their male colleagues (average age 56.4). The average age across all male supervisory board members is 62.9. This is more than six years older than that for their female counterparts (56.2).

More diversified boards support a more expansive corporate strategy

The Russell Reynolds study also shows a significant correlation between excellently composed supervisory boards and above-average growth. Jens-Thomas Pietralla, Managing Director at Russell Reynolds Associates with responsibility for the DAX 30 Supervisory Board Study, comments: “The statistical association between the historic evaluation of supervisory board members and the reported rates of growth supports our contention that more diversified supervisory boards encourage a more expansive corporate strategy. Over the past years, we have overwhelmingly seen cleverly thought-through changes in personnel that take into account both the desired breadth of experience and also the required considerations when it comes to diversity.”

Deutsche Bank, Siemens and Henkel take the top three spots in the Russell Reynolds supervisory board rankings

The results of this latest study see Deutsche Bank retaining its top spot in the rankings. Siemens climbs from 4th to 2nd spot. Henkel, which shared the top spot last year, has slipped to 3rd in the 2015 rankings. The context to this is that the members of the consumer goods group’s supervisory board rank comparatively highly for positions on other boards too. With equal scores, and in joint 4th place, come Adidas and Beiersdorf. 6th place is shared by no less than four companies – BMW, Commerzbank, Merck and Munich Re, all of whom achieved a solid score of 2.0. The two Munich-based companies amongst this group have made the greatest progress: Munich Re has moved up from 15th last year, a gain of nine places. But the climber of the year is BMW​, which has leapt up from 22nd spot.

The poorest rating, matching the 3.5 it scored last year, went to the supervisory board at Fresenius SE​. Here, despite new appointments this year, there is still not one single woman on the board.

The highest number of positions on supervisory boards with DAX companies goes to Michael Diekmann and Henning Kagermann, each of whom holds four posts. Renate Köcher, Ann-Kristin Achleitner, Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller, Sari Baldauf and Simone Bagel-Trah ​are five female supervisory board members who each hold at least two posts represented amongst the DAX 30.

In total, 16 DAX executive board members hold supervisory board positions with other DAX companies. That figure is down two on the previous year. Lufthansa, with three current DAX executive board members on its supervisory board, shows itself to be particularly strongly networked.

Once again, 2015 demonstrates that the quality of the supervisory board’s make-up is entirely independent of the level of remuneration. In respect of this Jens-Thomas Pietralla, a seasoned expert on supervisory boards, comments: “A company’s reputation, the quality of the chairman of the supervisory board and early planning of successor appointments are far more decisive factors. In this league, the remuneration received for supervisory board membership tends to play a subordinate role.” “German-speaking”: only around one in four supervisory board members in the DAX 30 does not hold a German passport While there were more women holding posts on the supervisory bodies, the companies in question continue to treat internationalisation as something of a secondary issue. For instance, the proportion of non-German supervisory board members has seemingly plateaued, at 27.7% as compared with 28.4% in 2014. Pietralla comments: “The major euphoria over new appointments from abroad seems to have run its course. This year, German appointments were again more prominent – for both women and men – and there are certainly some practical considerations at play in this, such as language or experience of co-determination in the corporate context. Instead of focussing primarily on nationality, for new appointments consideration is increasingly being given to experience of responsibility and life experience abroad.”

Volkswagen and Deutsche Bank (each 60%) continue to have the highest individual percentage of non-Germans on their supervisory board, closely followed by Allianz, Beiersdorf, Deutsche Börse, Fresenius MC and Henkel, each with 50%. Austria still accounts for the biggest contingent of non-German appointments, with 18 shareholder representative posts, followed by the USA (12), UK (10) and France (6). Interesting new appointments come from China (Amy Yok Tak Yip at Deutsche Börse) and the USA (Louise M. Parent at Deutsche Bank and Lawrence A. Rosen, Financial Director at Deutsche Post, to the supervisory board at Lanxess)​

One further finding from the Russell Reynolds Associates’ study is that the dramatic changes on the supervisory board of Volkswagen AG are symptomatic of the personnel-side trend for half of the DAX-30 supervisory boards over the past twelve months. Of the 22 (2014: 35) supervisory board members replaced last year, 16 of these personnel changes – some 73% – were mostly due to people standing down before the end of their scheduled period in office.

This year of non-scheduled changes on the one hand is contrasted on the other by the stability of the other 15 blue-chip companies in the most important segment of the German stock market. The top-level supervisory bodies in these companies remained entirely unchanged in terms of their shareholder representatives, even with the 2015 AGMs taken into account.

​About Russell Reynolds Associates

Russell Reynolds Associates is a global leader in assessment, recruitment and succession planning for chief executive officers, boards of directors and key roles within the C-suite. With 350 consultants in 44 offices around the world, we work closely with both public and private organizations across all industries and regions. We help our clients build boards and executive teams that can meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital, economic, environmental and political trends that are reshaping the global business environment.

For further information 
Susanne J. Mathony Director Marketing & Public Relations EMEA & Asia 
Russell Reynolds Associates 
Maximilianstrasse 12–14 
80539 Munich 
Tel.: +49 89 24 89 81 33 – Mobile: +49 174 25 82 711 

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5th DAX 30 Supervisory Board Study