Intu Properties Plc Embraces Modern Governance With Diligent
Intu is a leading owner, manager and developer of prime regional shopping centres, owning eight of the UK’s top 20 and three of Spain’s top ten retail and leisure shopping destinations. Intu is focused on creating the best places for shopping and leisure so customers visit more often and stay longer. Its unique customer insight helps it understand what customers want now and in the future and continuous investment in its centres helps retailers flourish, communities thrive and its business grow
The Challenges Of A Busy Board
Farah Darr is the Executive Assistant responsible for supporting the Intu Board, which holds more than 30 Board and committee meetings per year. With so many meetings happening each year, Farah has developed strict processes to manage the sourcing and collation of Board meeting materials so they reach directors in a timely manner, as she explains:
“I ask all departments to send reports in the right format and by a strict deadline seven days before the meeting. Papers are often rejected if they are too long. We’re having a major drive to streamline every part of the business to become more efficient, and that applies to Board reports as well,” she says.
In 2013, Farah started using Diligent Boards to build, manage and distribute board packs. “Thank God we got it!” she says. “Before we were printing 600-page packs on reams of paper, blocking up and often breaking the photocopiers and spending time and money collating and dispatching board packs through the post.” Now it is a straightforward matter of uploading the materials to Diligent and distributing them to directors, who access them via company iPads.
Several Intu directors sit on additional company Boards which also use Diligent meeting software. They appreciate the facility to have multiple logins so they can manage their busy workloads.
Evolving With The Business
Farah has been impressed by the way Diligent’s modern governance solution has evolved during the time she’s been using it: “Diligent never stands still, there’s always something new in the pipeline and the support team is very open to suggestions,” she notes. “I mentioned to our Customer Success Manager how useful it would be if we could do director surveys through Diligent. They took that on board and soon the functionality was there. We now use the Voting & Resolutions feature regularly as part of our interim Board evaluations – it is so straightforward and convenient having all the responses in the same place.”
As Intu has welcomed new directors to its Board, Farah has used Diligent during onboarding to familiarise them with the business: “It’s a really good resource for new directors,” she notes. “We use the Resource Centre feature as a secure repository for regulatory news service announcements, high level press cuttings and our annual report, so new Directors can get a good picture of the organisation.” The intuitive interface also saves time for new Directors: “Most Directors don’t need any training, just a quick walkthrough.”
Farah’s enthusiasm for Diligent has even persuaded other departments to make the investment: “Our development directors department and property asset management teams are now using it and are very happy.”
Getting Board Governance Right When It Counts
Corporate governance is never more firmly in the spotlight than during periods of disruption. Intu, in common with the wider retail sector, has been experiencing turbulent times. In 2018 it experienced two public company offers that, for reasons outside its control, did not ultimately go ahead.
For Farah, this meant an intense workload supporting the Board and its directors. “I feel like I spent most of last year logged into Diligent,” she reflects.
Diligent’s renowned world class security were put to good use as Farah managed ultra-sensitive documents related to the public company offers, as she recalls: “There were top-secret documents that Non-Executive Directors needed to see which other Board members could not have access to. By setting document access permissions in Diligent I could make those documents available for secure and simple access by the people authorised to see them.”
Using Diligent meant Intu could ensure that its security and governance processes were up to the required standard during a challenging period.
Looking To The Future
As new, tech-savvy, directors join the Intu Board and an ambition to become more efficient is led from the top by the CEO, Farah is finding that the appetite for digital functionality is growing: “Previously there was some reluctance to use features like notifications – I had to send a separate email to advise directors that board materials were available, which was inefficient. One day I just started using notifications and we haven’t looked back. I can see us adopting more modules, such as secure messenger and e-signatures, in future.”
Farah is keen to explore Diligent’s advanced modern governance capabilities and is a strong advocate. “I can’t imagine using any other software,” she says.
Farah concludes with a reflection on how Diligent fits with Intu’s business objectives: “Our CEO is leading a drive to get the whole business to be more agile and responsive, to focus on just getting things done. Diligent allows me to do just that.”