Hasso Plattner vs. Manfred Bischoff: Our Supervisory Board of the Year 2020

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Age does not protect you from performance: Why the head of the SAP supervisory board did many things right this year – and what his counterpart at Daimler missed out on.

Admittedly, at first glance there is little to speak for Hasso Plattner as “Supervisory Board of the Year 2020”: First, co-chair Jennifer Morgan had to take her hat off after only six months. Then the Group revised its forecast significantly downwards – and the share price plummeted. Not to mention the fact that thoroughbred entrepreneur Plattner is not considered a model corporate governance company anyway.

From our point of view, he has nevertheless made outstanding achievements in 2020. After all, staff squabbles and a stock market crash are the result of a power word with which the patriarch set the course for the future: Plattner put an end to the primacy of rapid growth and declared customer satisfaction to be the central criterion.

“We simply did not listen to our customers,” he stated openly. The break with the McDermott doctrine could hardly have been clearer. The resignation of McDermott supporter Morgan was therefore just as compelling as the slump in the share price. SAP is now investing heavily in the future and is accepting declining returns in return. “I will not sacrifice the success of our customers to the short-term optimization of our margin,” said CEO Christian Klein in October. His Chairman of the Supervisory Board will have heard it benevolently.

How Daimler slept through the generation change

Plattner’s word of caution shows that caution is called for with blanket corporate governance criteria such as age limits: Even a 76-year-old can still be the right person to chair the Supervisory Board – at least if he or she brings a breath of fresh air.

And that is exactly what Plattner did; in 2020, the SAP Supervisory Board will be younger and more feminine than ever. In recent years, the SAP founder has engaged exciting personalities in the form of design researcher Gesche Jost (46), compliance expert Friederike Rotsch (48), and media manager Gunnar Wiedenfels (43).

Unfortunately, even in the Dax, this is anything but standard. The discrepancy with the Daimler Supervisory Board is particularly striking : At the tender age of 58, Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Höttges is the youngest of the shareholder representatives. Experienced managers Clemens Börsig (72), Jürgen Hambrecht (74) and Bernd Pischetsrieder (72) dominate.

There is no question that each individual is a capable member of the Supervisory Board. But diversity looks different. The situation is further complicated by the fact that several members have been on the board for more than ten years. This means that they may already be part of the system they are supposed to monitor. For this reason alone, Supervisory Board Chairman Manfred Bischoff (78) should have provided a breath of fresh air long ago.