An increasing number of businesses are engaging with non-executive directors, leading to the formation of an ‘Experience Bank’ in the North East of England.
A non-executive director (NED) is a member of a company's board who is not part of the executive team. Typically, they will not engage in the day-to-day management of the organisation, but they’ll be involved in policy making and planning exercises.
Matthew Roberts, CEO of In Touch Networks who specialise in connecting businesses to non-executive directors, says the return on investment associated with engaging a NED can be exponential.
“SMEs need to stop viewing non-executives as big business territory,” Matthew says, “and realise that they might hold the key to reaching objectives.
“For businesses looking for honest, insightful and inexpensive strategic advice, a non-executive director can be a fast-track to commercial success, off market introductions and productive criticism of their strategy.
“Providing strategic advice, especially in a business without the luxury of a full board, can be exceptionally rewarding for both parties.”
Bringing a NED into a business brings a fresh perspective, additional sector knowledge, better business decisions, and support with overcoming challenges. A good NED can also bring new skills, networks and open doors.
Whilst not strictly a NED, the appointment of American rapper, singer and songwriter turned entrepreneur will.i.am as the first strategic board advisor of Atom Bank gives them an external perspective on culture, philanthropy and technology.
“The scale of Atom’s ambition to help people understand and manage their money better,” will.i.am said, “and it’s clever use of technology to give people an entire bank on their phones is awesome.”
Anthony Thomson, Atom founder and chairman, said: “Like us, will.i.am believes that technology can better and simplify our lives, which is at the heart of all that we are passionate about at Atom.
“As we develop the range of products and services on offer to customers, will.i.am’s unique view on the world and knowledge of future trends will be a great asset for us.”
And in the North East of England, the Experience Bank aims to forge better connections between NEDs and entrepreneurs.
The not-for-profit, business led initiative will help facilitate introductions between business owners and entrepreneurs looking to reap the benefits of working with an experienced NED.
Geoff Hodgson, chair of The Experience Bank Advisory Board, explained: “There’s a need for an initiative to act as a kind of ‘dating agency’ between Non Executive Directors and companies here in the North East, helping businesses to access talented people who can support them as they grow. While not a commercial match-maker, The Experience Bank does just that”.
The Advisory Board at The Experience Bank manages a high quality network of NEDs and helps make appropriate introductions to businesses, depending on their specific needs. A NED may be identified because they have skills in a specific area needed by the team, such as marketing, law or financial planning.
Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP, added: “Access to talented Non-Executive Directors is key to helping businesses in the region to scale and that’s why the North East LEP is supporting the launch of The Experience Bank, which will be a real asset to the North East.”
The Experience Bank is now accepting applications from experienced business leaders who want to work as NEDs in the North East and also from businesses which are looking to work with NEDs.
More information about The Experience Bank is available via the North East Growth Hub here.