The challenge of virtual board meetings

November 19, 2020, 10:25 AM UTC

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Good morning.

Are virtual board meetings as effective as in-person board meetings?  A full 45% of those responding to a NACD survey being released this morning say, “no.” Only 15% say, “yes.”  The remainder sit on the fence.

The challenge? According to 72% of those responding, it’s the loss of “nonverbal communication between directors.”  Eye rolls, strategic slumps, purposeful notetaking, and other well-worn tools of board room persuasion apparently lose their power over Zoom. Still, 93% of the respondents said their board was “able to govern effectively in the new environment,” while 63% said their time commitment as a director went up.

“Clearly virtual meetings are not the same as in-person meetings, and many surveyed report missing the unique value of these in-person meetings,” said NACD CEO Peter Gleason. “However, because directors report being able to effectively govern in these conditions, I would expect many boards to experiment with virtual meetings to see how they are best used, and to ultimately find some balance between the two in the years ahead.” 

While 26% of the directors reported attending an in-person board meeting in this year, and another 36% expect to attend one in the first quarter next year, the remaining 38% say they don’t expect an in-person meeting until after the end of March 2021.  You can read the full report here.

Separately, in reporting on Fortune’s CEO Roundtables yesterday, I missed the session on subscription businesses. Zuora CEO Tien Tzuo offered this bit of wisdom on building a successful subscription business: Never sit still. “The most important thing is to get something out there, and then go through this process of experiment and learning.”

More news below.

Alan Murray


737 Max

Boeing's share price jumped over 5% on the news that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has cleared its 737 Max for takeoff again. The planes have been grounded for record 20 months, following two fatal crashes. However, a criminal probe by the U.S. Justice Department is still ongoing, as is an SEC probe. Also, the market for new planes is… not great right now. As such, Boeing shares fell in late trading, closing down 3.2% yesterday. Fortune

2°C max

Despair thee not! Climate pledges by major polluters such as China, along with President-elect Joe Biden's planned re-entry of the U.S. into the Paris climate accord, means the world stands a chance of keeping global warming to less than 2°C, and, ideally, to 1.5°C or below. That's according to Patricia Espinosa, head of the United Nations climate office. "Science has told us that we still have a chance to achieve it. Looking at these announcements, I think that we should be also having even more hope," she said. But also: "I don’t want to sound like it’s a done deal." Associated Press

Apple fees

Apple is halving the cut—from 30% to 15%—it takes for most apps sold through its App Store. That is, the apps from smaller developers; the likes of Netflix and Spotify can't jump for joy here. Apple's hit will be somewhere between $600 million and $1.6 billion next year, depending which analyst you listen to. The move comes against a backdrop of antitrust probes and developer lawsuits; and many developers (hi, Spotify) remain deeply unconvinced. Fortune

Apple throttling

Apple will pay $133 million to settle states'' allegations over its slowing-down of iPhones to prompt device upgrades and mask battery problems. The offending actions took place in 2016; states see it as deception and said Apple should have disclosed the issues or replaced batteries. This settlement is separate from the one Apple struck in March to stem a class action by iPhone owners. Fortune


Joyy deride

Short-seller Muddy Waters sent Joyy's shares tumbling by accusing the Chinese firm of being a "fraud tech company." Muddy Waters founder Carson Block said Joyy's YY Live livestreaming service, which Baidu just agreed to buy for $3.6 billion, was "guilty of bot forming, creating fake transactions and having fake users." The accusations of revenue inflation and dodgy payments knocked Joyy's share price by more than 18%. Baidu's share price also dipped. Bloomberg

Mayer's back

Former Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer's startup, Sunshine, has released its first app. It's an invite-only address book app called Sunshine Contacts, which aims to cull double entries using A.I., and update old contact details by drawing on information from sources such as LinkedIn and email. Fortune

TSMC in Phoenix

Chipmaking giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (the one that's making Apple's buzzy new M1 processor) has won approval from city officials in Phoenix, Arizona, to build a $12 billion factory there. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said the deal was "a great success across so many levels of government in helping Arizona become a leader in advanced manufacturing." Construction should begin next year, and production in 2024. Reuters

Email diet

If you're tempted to send an email today that simply says "Thanks" or "LOL", maybe hold off. British officials working on environmental policy are reported interested in research that says over 64 million unnecessary emails are sent by Britons every day, and cutting down would also cut emissions. "We’ve been looking at research suggesting that if you reduced those emails by just one a day, you would save a lot of carbon," said one. Financial Times

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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