QBE Insurance Chairperson of the Year: Wayne Boyd

When it comes to reviewing company performance after tricky but successful corporate manoeuvre, it’s often difficult to identify who made the greatest contribution – the board collective, the chairman or the chief executive.
Telecom has faced just such challenging change programme over the past five to six years. And in the minds of this year’s Top 200 panel of judges, there is no doubt that the man most responsible for the resolution of the Telecom organisational conundrum was its retiring chairman, Wayne Boyd.
He won’t see it that way because he is not an egotistical man and has frequently credited the full board, the CEO and the senior executive team for doing the job.
The telecommunications industry issues involved in the restructure of Telecom were extremely complex. The company was New Zealand’s largest listed enterprise. It was also effectively government monopoly.
Boyd’s legal background, financial knowledge, strategic skills and experience, and his deep understanding of governance and leadership made him the best chairman for the job – both in theory and in practice.
The change process had to be properly managed given the economic and political implications of getting it wrong. “Boyd did superb job,” said this year’s judges.
Boyd is one of New Zealand’s most respected corporate directors and board chairmen. He has chaired some of New Zealand’s largest enterprises including Meridian Energy, Auckland International Airport and Freightways.
He was appointed to the Telecom board in 2004 and took over the chairmanship from Dr Roderick Deane in 2006.
Chairing Telecom after 2006 was never going to be easy. The national politics that went with the job would see to that. Observers wondered why he even volunteered to step up.
But Boyd’s reputation has in large measure been built on his willingness to tackle difficult assignments, particularly when they are in the national interest.
Successive governments signalled their desire for change at the telecommunications giant – and so it has been. Once accepted, Boyd never stepped back from the task at hand. Now, with the organisation split in two, he is moving on.
Wayne Boyd is no stranger to this award category. He has been chosen as finalist three times. Apart from his corporate leadership he has been deeply involved with the administration of New Zealand sport through his directorship of Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) and chairmanship of the New Zealand Hockey Federation.
He was also an independent director of Ngai Tahu Maori Trust for 10 years and chairman of both Shotover Jet and the New Zealand Blood Service – another government job.
Boyd is held in high regard by his peers for his governance skills and for his unflinching commitment to best practice governance. He is competent negotiator but an approachable individual with whom executives reportedly enjoy working.
He is now the 2011 QBE Top 200 Chairman of the Year. M


Ted van Arkel has successfully made the transition from top management to chairman of the board in relatively short space of time. His effective chairmanship of such well-performing companies as Charlie’s and Restaurant Brands points to the depth of his food/retailing sector experience and knowledge. His board chairmanship skills have also been extended to the education sector as chairman of Unitec. Important skills to have as tough trading conditions continue.

As the chair of two of New Zealand’s larger companies, Auckland International Airport and Mighty River Power, Joan Withers commands admiration and respect for her governance and leadership skills. She is highly regarded for her understanding of the skills required to be both an effective senior executive and an independent director. Withers is both team leader and team builder with reputation for working well with the CEOs of the enterprises she chairs.

Wayne Boyd is never afraid to take or make the governance leadership hard calls. Separating Telecom into two businesses under his watch was bound to be testing exercise. Rather than shy away, he accomplished the objectives with skill and organisational aplomb. His chairmanship of Telecom has been exemplary in difficult circumstances, but he retires from his role as chairman leaving two companies well structured for the new regulatory environment. His past chairmanship of other major New Zealand enterprises such as Auckland International Airport and Meridian Energy has been equally outstanding. Boyd is highly regarded by his peers, an exemplar of best practice governance and worthy winner of this award.

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