Corporate boards are struggling to keep pace with rising digital adoption and transformation against the turbulent headwinds of the COVID-19 pandemic, a latest study showed.
Management in Asia-Pacific are largely resistant to engaging third-party expertise and solutions to solve emerging challenges, according to a joint report by professional service group Tricor and Financial Times Board Director Programme.
Only 48 percent surveyed board directors in Asia-Pacific expressed willingness to use third-party digital specialists, compared with some 60 percent of those in Americas, according to the 2021 Asia-Pacific Board Director Barometer Report, which polled 771 board directors representing a wide spectrum of companies in sizes and industries.
Similarly, triggered by the mass virtualization following COVID-19, data security has emerged as a pressing concern for 83 percent of corporate boards. However, these sentiments have not yet been followed up with corrective action.
The massive shift to remote work models was reflected in the survey results, with board directors globally reporting that meetings went from being 5 percent virtual pre-pandemic to 5 percent in-person since the outbreak of COVID-19.
However, without the tools needed to ensure security and efficiency, many boards are unprepared to operate in a hybrid format, which will be the most popular meeting format post-pandemic. Only 5 percent of boards are currently meeting fully in-person, and only 12 percent of boards plan to meet fully in-person post-pandemic.
"While many Chinese companies are quick to adopt digital tools, their emphasis tend to be more focused on digital marketing rather than systematic input in supply chain and management," said Zhang Hailiang, China CEO of Tricor.
Zhang said companies engaged in high-technologies, professional services and education are more receptive of hosting online meetings, as well as those multinational corporations or major domestic companies that have frequent interaction with overseas markets.
"But investment in a vertical segment remains limited, such as a dedicated digital tool for board member meetings. And the adoption of certain free software could leave security concerns unaddressed," he said.
The study found that 94 percent of directors globally said they realized they need training but just 58 percent are receiving it. Experts called for corporate boards in the region to adopt digital board portals, digital governance tools and solutions needed to shift from surviving to thriving virtually.