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Australian family businesses pushed to hire more independent directors

Australia’s huge family business sector is being advised to hire more external board members, following a new partnership between lobby group Family Business Australia and consultants AMPLIFi Governance.

Australia’s huge family business sector is being advised to hire more external board members, following a new partnership between lobby group Family Business Australia and consultants AMPLIFi Governance.

Under the plans, FBA's 2,500 registered businesses will be offered help to find non-executive board members by AMPLIFi.

Chief executive of FBA Philippa Taylor said: "As our members seek to professionalise their business practices, they inevitably turn to us when seeking qualified non‐family directors. The partnership with AMPLIFi will meet this need."

She added: "The team at AMPLIFi have access to an impressive pool of independent directors. Importantly, these directors are experienced in introducing a boardroom culture, without compromising on the ethos and philosophies which form the foundation of family businesses."

The family business sector – which has an estimated worth of Aus$4.3 trillion (€3.32 trillion) – accounts for around 70% of all Australian companies, and employs more than 50% of the workforce.

According to research conducted in 2012 by PwC, 58% of family businesses in Australia had non-family members on the board, which was slightly lower than the global average of 64%. Non-family staff held shares in 28% of the firms questioned – also slightly down on the global average of 31%.

AMPLIFi Governance managing director Susanne Bransgrove said: “In our experience it's very common for family businesses to get to a point where they can really benefit from the establishment of a board with an independent director.

"Whether the business has grown to a point where it requires an injection of new expertise to progress to the next level, there are issues with family conflict or succession planning or if there is a need to improve accountability and governance, our model has a proven track record.”

PwC’s research also suggested that Australian businesses needed to be more prudent in addressing succession. Just 16% of the businesses surveyed reported having a family constitution (council), compared to a global average of 19%. PwC recommended a family constitution as a necessary tool for laying out guidelines and helping any eventual transition run more efficiently. 

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