Betting on Better Board Meetings: William Hill
When it comes to gambling, whether online or on the high street, William Hill is one of the world’s leading players. Employing nearly 16,000 people, the company has offices in the UK, USA, Australia and Gibraltar and offers betting to meet the needs of diverse customers: on the phone, online or in one of more than 2,300 licensed betting offices. William Hill has been a Diligent Boards™ client since 2013.
William Hill is a company that’s been around for more than 80 years. The key to its survival has been the ability to change with the times. And doing that requires an effective governance approach. The company has eight directors in total, six of whom are non-executives, with expertise including high-tech, retail and regulated businesses, perfect for the challenges William Hill faces.
The company’s board meets physically at least eight times a year, including a board strategy conference. The board also visits its other business locations away from the head office in London, including Las Vegas, Nevada and Gibraltar. It’s a lineup of meetings that calls for extensive information to be generated in advance. William Hill’s old approach to board meeting materials was to create paper-based packs that could be quite large and then courier them to each different location. According to Company Secretary Luke Thomas, “That added up to £2,000 to £3,000 a year, not including the staff costs and the time of the people collating and copying each report.”
With the effort and expense of creating paper-based board books mounting, William Hill decided to place its bets on digital and turned to Diligent Boards for help.
Board members often sit on multiple boards and get exposed to new technologies from their various organisations. In the case of William Hill, when Diligent Boards was first introduced at the company, none of the directors had used an online board portal for reviewing meeting information. What they sought was a digital solution that was intuitive to use, replicating the ease of paper (such as portability, annotation, browsing and page numbering), but one that also offered the highest standard of security. After looking at a few of the leaders in the field, the company chose Diligent as their provider.
During implementation, Diligent provided personalised training for all William Hill board members. Given how intuitive the application is to use, and how closely it resembles a paper book, there were no problems adopting the new approach. According to Luke, “One of my favourite stories from when William Hill first started using Diligent involved a director who was a little resistant at first to use the iPad. So, it was agreed the director would give it a try on the iPad and if it wasn’t to their liking, we’d revert to paper for that director instead. I never heard another word from the director on hard copy papers and the director has been a staunch supporter of Diligent Boards ever since!”
Beyond ease of use and security, another feature of Diligent Boards that William Hill now values highly is the support offered as part of the service agreement. One common problem for many users these days is forgetting passwords (in an environment overrun with them). With Diligent Boards, support is available on a 24/7 basis. “On the rare occasions our executives get stuck, the problem is resolved quickly and professionally by the Diligent support team” noted Luke.
William Hill made a faster-than-expected transition to using Diligent Boards due to rapid adoption by the board members and proactive support from both William Hill’s Secretariat team and Diligent.
In addition, the company found one unexpected benefit – Diligent Boards is a very helpful tool when new directors join the board. According to Luke, “the application is excellent for new joiners in two ways. Firstly, I can easily refer them to our ‘Archives’ section on Diligent Boards for key papers and minutes over the last three years, allowing them to quickly build up an understanding of and background to key board decisions and discussions. That is really helpful to facilitate the new director’s understanding of the business and it complements the face-to-face discussions between the new director and other senior managers in the business, which is also part of my responsibility to organise. Secondly, the Secretariat team has populated our ‘Resources’ section on Diligent Boards with a variety of important governance-related documents which are very helpful for a newly appointed director. This includes documents such as our articles of association, the schedule of matters reserved to the board, or the terms of reference for the various committees of the board. This gives a newly appointed director access to important documents all in one convenient place, which they can review at any time.”
Use of Diligent Boards has spread thanks to positive word of mouth from William Hill board members to other companies on whose boards William Hill board members also serve.