We spoke to our Non-Executive Director Nicholas Whitlam regarding the importance of strong governance and how it fits.
Question 1: What does Strong Governance mean to you?
Strong governance means having all the correct checks and balances in place, between management and the board, and all parties respecting and observing those controls.
The reporting set up is the foundation of good governance – however, the technical skills, values, experience and ultimately the behaviour of the individuals is what achieves a truly well-governed business. This year in particular will test the strength of many organisations and the robustness of their governance and leadership.
Financial services and superannuation operate in a highly regulated and fast-moving environment. Outstanding leadership, active engagement, clear and regular communication and commitment to both the vision and strategy of the business by everyone is essential.
Question 2: At Crescent Wealth, how has a diverse board helped deliver strong governance?
The diversity of skills, experience and their shared values contribute significantly to the effectiveness of our governance. As a member of the Board and Chair of the Investment Committee, I really value the opportunity to gain access to a range of perspectives that draw on various professional experiences and our diverse skills. Ultimately, we exist to deliver an Islamically compliant retirement fund for our members who are largely drawn from Australia’s Muslim community. A skilled and diverse board ensures we comply with these needs.
Our current board brings a diverse range of personal and professional experiences which is inherently valuable – from education, finance and technology to political and economic backgrounds. In a fast-moving, complex and increasingly digital environment, the depth of experiences, our ages – from relatively young to what I’d like to think of as “mature” – and different cultural backgrounds creates a rich and robust environment for the men and women who make up our board to make good decisions. And rich and robust debate delivers what is ultimately in the best interest of our members.
Question 3: Strong governance helps businesses respond to a changing external
environment. We’ve seen with COVID-19 just how much a business’s environment can change. From your perspective, how did good governance help Crescent Wealth in 2020?
Of course, the jury is still out, and we don’t know how long it will be with us, but management responded instantly to COVID-19. This meant operational changes – like implementing social distancing and remote working, proactive changes to protect our investments and a significant increase in communication to inform and address or members; inevitable concerns.
Management was empowered to act, and did act – which provided significant benefit to our members by enabling quick and effective responses to the immediate challenges.
Crescent Wealth’s strength is its long term view. While none of us could have predicted what 2020 has delivered, our success will depend on the vision and leadership required to weather future storms. Fortunately, the quality and trust shared by Crescent’s board and management is a special strength and a major contributor to our response to the rapidly changing environment.
Question 4: Governance and ethics are closely linked. Do you believe Crescent Wealth’s ethical investment principals has helped Crescent Wealth to ensure good governance processes are upheld throughout the organisation?
Ethical investment in the context of Islamic compliant investment principles are at the heart of our business. I do think this helps us maintain an excellent governance environment. Our commitment to investment in the ‘real’ economy and minimising harm requires a degree of care and diligence that carries throughout the organisation and the way we operate. What’s more, we relentlessly pursue high standards in our community engagement – from customer service and communication to our community initiatives.
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Talal currently serves as a Non-Executive Director on the Whitlam Institute and Western Sydney University Foundation Council Board. He also serves as Chairman of First Quay Capital and Chairman of the Australian Arab Dialogue. Talal has also served on the Australia Post, Board of Sydney Ports, Macquarie University and the Western Sydney Area Health Service and the Chairman of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Council of Australia Arab Relations. In an executive capacity, Talal spent 10 years at PwC as a director and strategist, and at investment firm Babcock & Brown in the Corporate Finance Group and later in the Technical Real Estate Division. Later Talal held leadership positions in Better Place Australia, Platinum Hearing and Star Transport Australia.