Twenty-five years ago, I received a special invitation to join the board of directors of a small community bank. Despite having no prior banking experience, I saw this opportunity as a way to bridge the gap between my church members, community residents, and the bank. I aimed to establish a strong working relationship that would benefit all stakeholders. The bank had the necessary resources to enhance access to home mortgages, business loans, educational financing, and convenient savings. I wanted to ensure these opportunities were available and accessible to our community.
My motivation for joining the board was not driven by personal gain, but rather by the desire to accomplish something meaningful for the community. In fact, upon officially becoming a director, I requested that the bank organize a reception for my church members and community residents. The response was overwhelming, with more than 200 people gathering in the bank’s lobby to celebrate the bank’s first African-American director. It was a significant moment for both the bank and the community.
Serving as a director placed me in a favorable position to strengthen the ties between the bank and the community. We launched a micro-business loan program to assist small businesses in need of working capital, provided mortgages for first-time homebuyers, and offered other financial products tailored to the local neighborhood. Not only did my involvement help numerous individuals establish banking relationships, it also contributed to the bank’s improved Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) rating with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). It was, indeed, a win-win situation for everyone involved.
The positive outcomes didn’t end there. At one of my initial board meetings, the bank’s vice president asked me to complete paperwork similar to what an employee would fill out. When I inquired about the reason, she informed me that it was necessary to process my director fees. I was taken aback as I had no idea that the bank would compensate me for attending meetings and assisting in benefiting the community. This was a pleasant surprise, especially since my previous board experiences had all been with non-profit organizations that expected financial contributions rather than providing compensation. My bank directorship now became a win-win-win situation!
This newfound insight led me to delve into the realm of corporate governance and paid directorships. I soon discovered that many people I knew were serving on boards of major corporations and earning significantly more as part-time directors than I was as a full-time pastor. That year marked a turning point as I decided to learn everything I could about being a paid corporate director and pursue similar opportunities for the rest of my life. Since then, I have served as a paid director on five corporate boards. The knowledge and expertise I have gained from these experiences have driven me to help others achieve the goal of becoming paid corporate directors.
The free enterprise system stands as the most successful economic model globally. Its strength lies in robust corporate governance, which holds executives and managers accountable to sound business practices, safeguarding the interests of investors, owners, lenders, and customers. When corporations prioritize such governance, prosperity ensues, benefiting current and future generations of investors, employees, and consumers.
Diversity, mobility, and technology are now converging in ways never seen before, exerting a significant impact on markets. We find ourselves amid the most rapidly changing era in human history. Corporate leadership must broaden the composition of individuals overseeing corporate planning, innovation, and execution. Today, companies require directors with backgrounds in technology, cultural diversity, international business, and cybersecurity. The days of board members serving as mere rubber stamps for management decisions while simultaneously sitting on each other’s boards are long gone. New legal requirements have opened the door to more independent directors detached from any ties to company executives or businesses. Furthermore, major corporate disruptions have forced leaders to be more adaptable and flexible than ever before.
Now is the opportune time to cultivate a fresh pipeline of talented individuals who can serve as corporate directors. I am committed to playing a role in developing that pipeline, recognizing the importance of nurturing a diverse pool of candidates. By doing so, we can ensure that corporate governance keeps pace with the evolving demands of our fast-changing world.