HelloFresh & Zalando – who has the better supervisory board?

High female quotas, successful digital entrepreneurs, few conflicts of interest: the young Dax newcomers also differ from the top dogs at supervisory board level. Emulation is encouraged.

Those looking for an interesting supervisory board will also find what they are looking for at Zalando: Chief controller Cristina Stenbeck has not only gathered four other women around her, which corresponds to a female quota of 55 percent. In addition, Niklas Östberg (Delivery Hero) and Jennifer Hyman (Rent the runway) are two young, successful digital entrepreneurs.

Another plus point is that, with the exception of Anders Holch Povlsen from major shareholder Bestseller A/S, a Danish fashion group, all members of the Supervisory Board are “independent”. This is not a matter of course for growth companies, as representatives of venture capital or private equity investors often dominate. We criticized this about four years ago with HelloFresh (see also: “Oliver Samwer – strong founder, weak governance”).

But the cooking box shipper has made progress since then. The investor camp only includes supervisory board head John Rittenhouse (65), ex-Walmart manager and founder of Cavallino Capital. According to the company, however, he has “no authoritative personal or business relationships” with shareholders holding more than ten percent.

Which supervisory boards look old

Westwing founder Stefan Smalla (44), a successful digital entrepreneur, also sits on the five-member board. However, he is the youngster there: with a range of 44 to 77 years, the Hello Fresh supervisory board is significantly older than its Zalando counterpart (35 to 54 years).

Nevertheless, both supervisory boards clearly stand out from the old-guard ranks of some DAX companies. For example, despite the rejuvenation that has been initiated, the Daimler Supervisory Board continues to be dominated by deserving managers. They include Bernd Pischetsrieder, Clemens Börsig, Martin Brudermüller, Tim Höttges and, most recently, Olaf Koch. Diversity looks different. The situation is similar at Allianz, where ex-CEO Michael Diekmann has brought Jim Hagemann Snabe, Herbert Hainer and Friedrich Eichiner, among others, to his side.

We ask ourselves: How are boards supposed to have an equal say in future issues and provide impetus when the focus is so clearly on past merits? The supervisory boards of established companies urgently need more skills for the future – from blockchain to artificial intelligence. And that’s where they can learn from the newcomers – especially Zalando.