How many directorships can a man handle?
This issue was discussed at SMU. JY Pillay said not more than 5 are ‘humanly possible’. I like the word humanly and the inverted commas used by the ST. I am sure there must be a distinction between humans and inhumans. Lee Suet Fern also shared Pillay’s views and added that it was ‘physically very difficult to do so many directorships because the time demands are all bunched at the same time.’ Of course she is very clear on this, she is referring only to humans and not inhumans. The Chairman of Singapore Institute of Directors (SID), John Lim, felt that ‘it should be left to the individual directors and boards to assess the matter’, and an arbitrary number should not be imposed. I am wondering if the individual directors or boards’ decision on the number of directorships is considered arbitrary or objective? Teo Soon Hoe, senior ED and group finance director of Keppel Corp, agreed with John Lim. A limiting number is unnecessary, ‘it is an individual director’s responsibility to ensure that if he sits on any board, he has time for it’. Hmmm, I think I fully agreed with the latter two. Why have regulations and arbitrary numbers to say someone is unfit to do the impossible? Everyone is different and some have inhuman abilities that humans will not understand nor comprehend. And Teo reinforced his position by stressing that it was so difficult to find good directors in this land of no talents. This I agree also. The experienced directors are so hard to come by and are precious resources to be treasured. It was reported that Lee Suet Fern had observed that ‘self regulation has not worked because there are a good number of very egregious instances where people are taking on too many directorships. It is bad for us and bad for the investing public. I accept that all guidelines are arbitrary…but sometimes it’s better to have it than have a free for all and a wild, wild East’. Again Suet Fern is talking about people, the humans, and that makes perfect sense. But if we can find inhumans that are upright and uncompromising, they will be able to act independently always, and 10 or 20 directorships would be chicken feat. Let them decide for themselves arbitrarily. Oops, no I mean independently, with their good judgement. My conclusion, we must know what we are referring to. In the case of humans and humanly possible, Pillay and Suet Fern are right. In the case of inhuman abilities and integrities, John Lim and Teo Soon Hoe are right. I rest my case.