New programme for company directors to get accreditation and stay relevant


    The Straits Times, 11 May 2024


    SINGAPORE – An extensive training programme has been launched to improve the standard of company directors and strengthen corporate governance.

    The initiative by the Singapore Institute of Directors (SID), which comprises formal training, a professional exam and continuous development, is open to people already serving as directors and those aspiring to join a company board.

    “Accreditation will uplift the directorship profession by promoting continuous improvement, competent leadership and stakeholder confidence,” said SID governing council chairman Yeoh Oon Jin.

    “With accreditation, directors in Singapore have a structured pathway to chart their professional development. Companies looking to refresh their board can look to the accreditation credential as a testimony of a candidate’s commitment to high corporate governance standards and continuous professional development as a director.”

    The programme is built around the director competency model laid out by SID, which says directors should be competent in eight areas, including governance, financial and digital skills, risk management and sustainability fundamentals.

    It is also designed to support directors of all organisations, including listed companies, statutory boards, family firms and non-profit organisations.

    There will be training in the eight competencies and candidates will have to sit an exam testing their knowledge in these. They must get a minimum 50 per cent score in all eight sections and achieve an overall 70 per cent grade.

    Those who get accredited must also maintain continuous professional development, putting in 40 hours over two years, or risk losing the accreditation status.

    The programme was reviewed by regulators, including the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, the Singapore Exchange Regulation and the Charities Unit, a division of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

    Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Finance, said at the programme launch at the Singapore Management University on May 10: “While accreditation is not mandatory, it speaks volumes of individuals who step forward to get accredited.

    “It will demonstrate their commitment to lifelong learning and pursuit of professional standards to strengthen corporate governance.

    “It will also aid new directors, including foreigners looking to incorporate companies in Singapore, to obtain the relevant competencies and understand Singapore’s standards for corporate governance.”

    Corporate governance has never been more crucial, Ms Indranee said. “In the face of geopolitical uncertainties, climate change, emerging technologies and risks posed by money laundering and terrorism financing, we need to ensure that Singapore remains a competitive and trusted hub for investments and businesses.”

    Ms Indranee noted that the role of directors is also evolving with the rapidly changing world, from tackling emerging cyber risks to addressing urgent calls for sustainable growth.

    “One key area of governance that warrants greater attention from directors today is preventing their companies from being misused for money laundering,” she said.

    “Over the past year, the high-profile billion-dollar money-laundering case as well as convicted cases of directors failing to exercise reasonable diligence in discharging their duties have made the news. These serve as reminders of the important role that directors play.”

    Ms Indranee added that Singapore is taking concerted efforts to guard against money laundering. An inter-ministerial committee she chairs that is reviewing the issue will release its findings later in 2024. “We will also need you, as directors, to do your part – to continue to stay vigilant and guard against this threat,” she said.

    Around 1,000 directors have already gone through the accreditation process, including Mr Desmond Goh, managing director of the Asia-Pacific business of aerospace company Eaton Aerospace, who took the pilot exam in April.

    “I wanted to understand and learn what it takes to be a good director and to benchmark myself. So far, my directorship experience has consisted of informal learning while on the job over the years – I don’t have any formal director training,” noted Mr Goh, 45.

    “The preparatory course offered by SID was useful in helping me prepare for the accreditation exam. It also had a lot of useful links to resources that will help me in future, such as updates on environmental, social and governance regulations and cyber risk.”

    Lawyer Looi Ming Ming, 43, who also went through the programme, said: “After practising as a dispute resolution lawyer specialising in construction for more than 20 years, I thought, why not seize this opportunity to pick up new skills on something a little different but yet related to the law?

    “I foresee advantages in terms of the SID accreditation conferring credibility and being a badge of validation of my competence and commitment to lifelong learning and adapting.”

    SID also presented Ms Indranee with the title of honorary fellow, making her the first woman to get this accolade.

    SID honorary fellows help to advance exemplary corporate governance and best practices in Singapore.