It’s the perfect time to be exploring non-executive director roles.

You might currently be seeking a fresh challenge, diversifying your portfolio career or perhaps contemplating a phased route to retirement. Whatever your motivation, the moment to navigate to a NED role is here – especially if you work in the technical, financial or digital space.

Once upon a time, NED appointments tended to be filled by executives with decades of commercial experience. Over the last few years, there’s been a seismic shift – and boards are now welcoming individuals for their specific knowledge in the red-hot technology sector. We’re witnessing organisations seeking expertise in how AI and big data can be used to boost efficiencies, drive profits and predict future demand in diverse settings. In organisations where board members may be several decades apart from the current generation of tech leaders, this is of particular relevance.

This new breed of non-executive director will bring skills and experience to keep up with the digital, cultural and people challenges that businesses in every sector are facing every day to mitigate risk and provide strong governance outcomes. And you might be a perfect match.

Understanding the current NED role

As a non-executive director, you’ll have a valuable opportunity to help steer a company in the right direction, helping them to be profitable, perform to an optimum level and embed a strategic plan for the future – from acting as a sounding board to a start-up right though to guiding, influencing and inspiring a high profile listed company.

It’s not about running the organisation but making sure it’s well run. Protecting its reputation and credibility. Enabling its future growth. Facilitating success and supporting the board.

One of the biggest changes has been the increase in the breadth of topics that must be discussed by the board. Climate has been rightly dialled up. Technology and its implications also come up more. Even the ethics of using data and AI are now a board topic.”

Danuta Gray, former CEO of Telefonica O2 Ireland and experienced NED in consumer services businesses,  from an interview with Board Intelligence.

Is it a good fit for your skills and experience?

The most effective non-executive directors are those who combine industry expertise and experience with a willingness to learn, adapt, and challenge the status quo constructively.

You’ll be commercially astute and have an understanding of top-level decision-making. This means taking an impartial view of the day-to-day running of the business, offering fresh ideas and solutions, prioritising efficiencies and acting in the best interest of the shareholders. Your experience to this point will help challenge and develop proposals on vision and strategy.

You’ll need to be reflective, perceptive, able to reduce risks on the horizon while keeping an eye on compliance and reputation.

This is a role where personal traits count: being smart, supportive, objective yet engaged, curious, challenging and clear-sighted; able to manage – and defuse – conflict; offering sound judgment and conviction with highly developed emotional intelligence.

Women at the top

Over the last few years, there has been a drive to get more women into non-executive director roles – and it’s working. Boards in general are seeing greater representation, now at 42% for FTSE 350 Boards, having exceeded the target ahead of the 2025 deadline.

Did you know that  52% of the NEDs appointed to the top 150 UK companies in the past year were women? If we count existing NEDs as well, the proportion of women holding a NED role stands at 51% – impressive, considering that the EU hasn’t reached 40% yet.

How you benefit from taking on a NED role

Many of the non-executive directors we’ve supported tell us that contributing to the growth, strategy and evolution of a business is incredibly rewarding. It’s an ideal way to channel your experience to grow, develop and fortify an organisation – and can be even more satisfying if it’s a cause you feel strongly about.

On a personal level, you’ll be accruing and consolidating valuable new skills to add to your arsenal.

  • Flexibility – this isn’t a full-time commitment. A non-executive director role sits comfortably with a portfolio career.
  • Opportunity to contribute fresh insights and ideas, and boost a company’s reputation and credibility.
  • Fast-track your executive career by developing strategic thinking and business acumen.
  • Broaden your network – expand your own professional opportunities in a prestigious role that will position you favourably for other NED positions.
  • Additional source of income

In my experience on the board of The Rainbow Trust, being a NED is enormously rewarding and increasingly complex. We tell the executives that we coach at City CV that the role is essentially a mixture of supporting and challenging. You’re helping a business develop a bigger vision, focusing on the direction of travel rather than the detail yet at the same time preserving its reputation and keeping stakeholders happy.”  Victoria McLean, Founder & CEO, City CV

What about time commitment and remuneration?

This can vary depending on the organisation but is likely to be between 12 to 25 days a year. Tenure has been stable for the last decade or so, tending to hover around the 4-year mark.

The average salary for a FTSE non-executive director is currently around £76, 868.

And age is no barrier. NEDs appointed since 2022 have been on average nearly two years younger at 58.4 than those on the board they are joining. Now a lawyer, Page Nyame-Satterthwaite was just 19 when she joined the board of the National Children’s Bureau.

Next steps…

Do some research. A good starting point is to have a conversation with the non-execs on the board of where you currently work and find out how they got there.

The key to landing the right non-executive director role is to exploit your business network in the here and now. Look outwards, see where your expertise might be of value and foster connections.

Remember that under UK corporate governance code, non-executive directors should not have had a “material business relationship” with the company whose board they want to join. So it’s a good idea to stretch your search. You could even make it personal by including charities or causes that mean something to you.

You’ll want to carry out your own due diligence, too. Do I really understand the business model? How does the company make its money? What do I have to offer? What will be expected of me? What is the relationship between the board and management?

Get the right support   

Choosing industry professionals to navigate you through effective preparation and fortify your application makes absolute sense.

Our expert team can help you shape your NED CV for maximum success – highlighting the experience you can bring to a board, demonstrating your independent thinking and readiness to take – and stand by – decisions as well as the value in your skills and expertise while reflecting an understanding of corporate governance codes and guidelines.

Talk to us about the programmes we can recommend to deepen your understanding of the role and position you for the right opportunities.

In addition, we offer tailored executive coaching which will give you a solid foundation for progressing your journey to your first non-executive director role.

Finally, remember a non-executive director role places great emphasis on personality and ability, not just your career achievements.

We’re skilled at identifying the right qualities and reflecting these in your NED CV, LinkedIn profile and executive bio to help you stand out.

Ready to apply?

We also recommend refining your skills in six key areas to empower you to bring authority, confidence and value to the boardroom. You can read more about this here.

Get some valuable extra help to elevate your application from our FREE masterclasses.

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