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The IPO market continues to rebound. A total of 10 companies went public in July following 12 the prior month.
Altogether, there have been 74 IPOs, year-to-date, through July, up nearly 370 percent from the prior year, according to Greenwich, Ct.-based IPO research firm Renaissance Capital.
The Dodd-Frank Act may have gone a little further on some issues than many people had anticipated. But one potential issue that did not see meaningful change is the separation of the chairman and CEO functions.
The Act requires that the SEC issue rules requiring each public company disclose in its annual proxy materials the reasons why the company chose to have either the same person, or separate people, serve as the Chairman and CEO.
Employers with underfunded defined benefit (DB) pension plans can receive billions of dollars in temporary pension funding relief as a result of legislation recently signed into law, according to a new analysis by professional services company Towers Watson.
Under the Preservation to Access to Care for Medicare Beneficiaries and Pension Relief Act of 2010, employers can elect to amortize funding shortfalls for any two plan years between 2008 and 2011, over a 15-year period, or make interest-only payments for two years, followed by seven years of amortization.
Four out of five organizations, mostly large corporations and some non profits and governments, have gone through some sort of redesign initiative over the past 12 months, according to a survey of more than 400 programs by 260 such organizations by the Corporate Executive Board. Trouble is, more than half of these organizations expect to go through another major redesign over the next 12 months.
While 90 percent of those organizations reported hitting the cost-cutting targets after one year, only 60 percent hit the employee performance targets for their redesign initiatives. As a consequence, many of the redesign efforts have led to unclear decision-making authority, reduced collaboration or poor alignment between employees' interests and their new jobs. As performance suffers, the benefits from the cost savings are likely to disappear over time.
Last year, 13 percent of chief financial officers changed jobs. Although this was down from 18 percent the prior year, Deloitte's CFO Programs predicts CFO turnover will rise again this year.
The ramifications of turnover are huge. Tom Bonney, founder and managing director of CMF Associates, which offers temporary CEO, COO and controllership services, estimates that when a CFO leaves, efficiency in the finance department is automatically cut in half and exposure to risk increases. When a new CFO joins the company, the ramp up period is longer than other key executive roles, due to the CFO's broad array of responsibilities.
The need for a chief executive to work with boards and communicate with Wall Street has never been greater, and CFOs have experience in both those areas--making them excellent candidates for the top spot in an organization.
Companies are increasingly recognizing the value of this internal asset and promoting their CFOs to CEO, according to executive search firm Russell Reynolds' Chief Financial Officer Moves North America, Q1 2010.
Companies all too often stick with losing ventures despite signs of trouble, critics contend. But they acknowledge that it is often difficult to determine just how long is too long.
Still, the experts point to AOL, Google, Gillette, Michelin and Research In Motion as recent or current examples of companies that have refused to pull the plug, or delayed doing so, on products and services where margins, market share, relative growth rates and or other competitive benchmarks indicate that they would be better off investing the money tied up in them elsewhere.
The loss of one key person can be bad enough. The loss of three at one time can be devastating.
Just ask US Highland. This past week, the designer and manufacturer of motocross, supermoto and other specialized motorcycles lost president Mats Malmberg, COO Chase Bales and CFO Damian Riddoch, when their plane crashed into a wooded area near Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The market reacted immediately to the July 12 announcement. Shares fell 54 cents, or 44 percent, to 75 cents.
No doubt, the company, which in April named Bengt Andersson its new chairman, will feel the impact. It said it expected to name the executives' replacement the following day-July 13-- but as yet have not.
Such incidents bring home the need for succession planning. Whether due to an accident, unexpected departure or illness, having someone ready to step right in is critical.
Surprisingly, succession planning is often put off. However, this could cause a crisis at a company.
In fact, in a recent survey of CFOs by Robert Half Management Resources, 83 percent of those surveyed said they have not identified a successor for their positions. "It is critical for organizations to recognize that if they lose that CFO they should have at least one or two viable options for immediate succession," says David Nosal, chairman and CEO of executive leadership solutions at Nosal Partners, who placed CFO Jeff Epstein at Oracle and CFO Paul Tufano at Alcatel-Lucent.
"The last thing most entrepreneurial leaders are thinking is 'Who will take over if something happens to me?' adds Ken Luer, a corporate law partner with Ervin Cohen & Jessup. He adds that often the same thing that has driven the company to success--the dominant force of the CEO--leaves a vacuum with no clear successor having the perceived authority and leadership experience to step in and manage the company through its crisis."
The ramifications of not having a seamless CFO succession plan can be significant. In a small, early-stage company, where financial stability is the name of the game and credibility with investors is important, the sudden loss of a CFO can be devastating. The uncertainty may scare off investors, make vendors/suppliers a bit hesitant to do business with you, worry about the sustainability of the company, and of course whether they will get paid. Uncertainty just stirs unrest.
In a large public company, the financial markets will need to understand first why a CFO left (if not by death or incapacitation), and more importantly, the CEO and board's strategy for finding a replacement. The financial markets can view the sudden exit of a CFO as an early sign of instability, lack of performance, or even more significant issues, underscored by the collapse of US Highland's stock price on news of the plane crash.
So, how should companies prepare for a potential sudden departure of a key executive? Boards should have a few contingencies--successors who are "ready now," "ready in one year," or if urgent, "backups" to serve in the interim, explains Janice Ellig, Co-CEO of executive search advisory firm Chadick Ellig.
Paul McDonald, executive director at Robert Half recommends companies identify critical positions that should never be left vacant and determine which senior-level managers may leave in the next few years because of retirement or other factors. Note which senior or mid-level managers, with professional development, might be qualified to take on those roles.
Also, determine the personal and professional qualities required for success. Look for opportunities for stars to gain visibility and hone functional expertise and decision-making skills. Broaden the pool. People who are next in line for promotions are not necessarily the best leaders. Search for high-potential candidates everywhere, not just up and down the job title chain.
Says Lois Melbourne, CEO of Aquire, a workforce planning firm: "Make it a team effort. Succession planning is not just an HR effort. While the HR department facilitates discussions, it is critical that the executive team, business leaders and others within the organization remain an active part of the succession planning process."
This proxy season is shaping up as one of shareholder revolt, as more and more directors fail to receive the support of a majority of owners.
While the Corporate Library, a corporate governance research firm, is still collecting data, early indications suggest that many more directors will fail to win support from less a majority of their shareholders than in previous years.
Shareholders recently voiced fresh dissatisfaction with director R. Bruce LaBoon, who is also "of counsel" at Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, a law firm that provides services to the company.
In its proxy statement, the company cliams that the "attorney fee arrangement with Locke Lord is negotiated on the same basis as arrangements with other outside counsel and is subject to the same terms and conditions."
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