Rebecca Thomas is chief executive of specialist boutique funds manager Mint Asset Management which has more than $220m in funds under management.

Thomas has just appointed Paul Richardson, who has more than 22 years experience in the financial services industry in Australia and New Zealand. In the past 10 years he has worked at BT Funds Management, part of the Wealth division of Westpac NZ, most recently as CIO. BT Funds has over NZD$4 billion of funds under management and advice.

Why did Mint want a new director?

We believe in having the right mix of skills on any board. We look for this attribute in companies we invest in so we want that for our own board too. Paul is a very experienced New Zealand and Australian market investor and as such he is a rare commodity so when he became available, we sought him out.

Paul has recently chosen to move from a full time funds management role to holding a portfolio of board positions which are pertinent to his skills. He has more than 22 years' experience in the finance industry at the highest level and he will bring that expertise to bear on our investment process and strategy. Our business which was established six years ago has focused on employing the smartest people with demonstrable track records of success in fund management. The skill pool in the local market is shallow so we want to add to add to our capability when we can.


Who else is on your board?

Before Paul's appointment we had a board of two, an independent chairman, Pip Dunphy and myself as CEO. The key role the independent chair plays is in governance, risk management and assurance. The chair liaises with our auditors and third party suppliers and is a touch point for all relationships which importantly is independent of the management of the business. This segregation of roles is important to the success of our business and to our existing clients. Our chair is on the boards of a number of listed and crown owned entities and offers us a perspective of best of breed governance from her involvement with much larger entities.

What is a board there for?

I believe the management is there to manage the business and the board's role is one of governance. However this relationship is most effective in a small business when you work as a team and pool resources. In a strict sense the board may be involved in strategic matters rather than the day to day management of the business but a good board will be a practical asset and can offer guidance and support to management to add value to the business itself rather than create unnecessary workload for a small management team.

Has the role of a director changed over the years?

Yes I think it has changed. Director's duties have always imposed fiduciary obligations and these are appropriate but taking on a directorship is now not taken lightly and I think there is a greater understanding of the role of directors. Having too many directorships is now not seen as a good thing. To do the job properly, requires a significant time commitment and energetic focus. It is not about having "names on the board " but people with a diverse mix of skills who are willing to get involved with, but not micro manage, the business on behalf of company.

What major decisions has the board helped with so far?

The purchase of shares by employee shareholders, reviewing key contracts when there are changes in suppliers and strategic decisions about product launches are three examples.

What tips do you have for SMEs thinking of setting up a board?

You want people who are willing to make a real contribution and have the right skills background for your industry. Don't recruit in your own image. You need people with diverse perspectives as this will enable a robust decision making process for the business. If you are a CEO of a small business, be realistic about your own strengths and weaknesses and try to find people who will balance out your own capability. Be prepared to accept constructive criticism from your board. This is part of the journey to develop the business.

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