Snabe vs. Kaeser: The end of multi-supervisory boards?

Overboarding: Busy controllers are increasingly being targeted by shareholders. Some recognize the signs of the times, others continue to collect items as if their working day had 24 hours

Jim Hagemann Snabe is resigning from two posts at once: the former SAP CEO is leaving the supervisory boards of Allianz and Maersk, as was announced at the beginning of the month. This will give the 56-year-old more time to concentrate on his role as head of the Siemens Supervisory Board. He is thus taking into account “concerns expressed by shareholders,” Snabe commented.

Other multi-supervisory board members are also cutting back. Karl-Heinz Streibich, for example, is no longer chairman of the supervisory board of Software AG. However, the 69-year-old remains a member of the supervisory boards of Telekom, Siemens Healthineers and Munich Re. He also serves as president of the German Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech).

Joe Kaeser is also a busy member of the Supervisory Board, holding two positions as Chief Executive Officer (Siemens Energy, Daimler Trucks) and a mandate at Linde. The situation is similar for Wolfgang Reitzle, who, despite his 72 years of age, still serves as a dual supervisory board chairman (Conti, Linde).

Accumulation of offices instead of generation change

Of course, compared with the days of the German stock corporation, when even double-digit numbers of positions hardly caused a stir, today’s multi-supervisory boards seem restrained. But what’s getting better is far from good. For effective oversight, some controllers need to lay down more posts. In our view, clear overboarding is more than just a supervisory board chair in particular.

Because in crisis situations, a chief controller’s office quickly becomes a full-time job – at least if you take your job seriously. Instead of packing their workdays full, supervisory board members should therefore always plan for a buffer. Anything else is a fire hazard for companies.

In addition, it is simply not necessary to hire supervisory board members who already hold several mandates. There are plenty of experts out there who can enrich any supervisory body. But they don’t get on the radar because many supervisory board heads and HR consultants are still looking in their usual networks.

It is therefore high time to pave the way for a new generation of supervisory board members