In today's business world, good corporate governance is essential for ongoing investor confidence. Companies should therefore keep their own practices under close review to ensure compliance with all legal and regulatory stipulations and to meet shareholder expectations in full.
Earlier this year, the Hong Kong stock exchange introduced certain amendments to its listing rules in order to remain aligned with international standards of corporate governance. According to Thomas Lee, manager of the Centre for Corporate Governance and Financial Policy at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), this move also helped to increase general awareness of the issue.
As a practical measure, HKBU has set up a new Certificate in Directorship programme for senior executives, intended especially for those with listed companies. It is a blend of cutting-edge theory and case studies, and is designed to give an understanding of corporate governance principles and the skills to apply them effectively.
"Our goal is to equip both incumbent and future company directors with the professional knowledge they need," Dr Lee says. "It is an intensive course with 42 contact hours spread over seven weeks. Most people taking the course travel frequently for business, so we aim to cover as much as possible in a relatively short period of time."
The current programme is running from November 9 to December 23, with three-hour classes on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons. The standard fee is HK$18,000 and a certificate is awarded to those who successfully complete eight required subjects and pass an examination. The basic entrance requirements are to have a bachelor's degree or equivalent, or six years' executive experience.
"We plan to offer the course three times a year and to have between 20 and 30 students per class," says Dr Lee. "This size of class is best because it encourages more interaction among the students and with the teacher as well."
The programme starts with an overview of the main principles of corporate governance, introducing the legal framework and exploring core topics such as ownership structures, shareholder rights and board composition. The other subjects covered include internal controls, risk management, corporate transparency and disclosure.
"Assessments are done by means of questionnaires or case studies which range extensively over all the topics which have been taught,"
Dr Lee explains. "Later on, they can even prove a useful check-list if course participants want to review the key issues in their own firms." Professor Simon Ho, who is Dean of the School of Business, and Professor Raymond Chan of the Department of Accountancy and Law designed the questionnaires.
Anyone who successfully completes the programme will be granted an exemption from one subject if they subsequently take the university's MSc in corporate governance and directorship and meet the other entrance requirements.