INSEAD Participant Interview

10 Questions on… the INSEAD Certificate in Corporate Governance

Rosa Villalobos

Head of Macquarie’s Luxembourg office

Rosa Villalobos is head of Macquarie’s Luxembourg office. She is also on the boards of a number of companies with diverse and international activities. And now she is the proud owner of an INSEAD Certificate in Corporate Governance. Here she tells us all about her experiences.

How did you come to be on boards?

It’s part of my job. In fact, it’s the main part of my job. I previously worked for Goldman Sachs here in Luxembourg. And before that, I spent ten years in finance and accounting for a wide range of companies – from a German chocolate producer to a Spanish construction conglomerate.

What is your biggest challenge as a director and chairperson?

Following the International Directors Programme, I’ve confirmed that it’s Fair Process in decision making, which is one of Professor Van der Heyden’s main areas of expertise.

In what way is Fair Process a challenge for boards?

Ludo characterises it as having five steps: first, engaging; second, exploring; third, explaining; fourth, executing; and fifth, evaluating. What I learned at INSEAD was that, if you fail in the early steps, you can’t possibly have all the directors on the same page and therefore the process of making a decision is going to be conflicted.

And what are the other main challenges that directors face right now?

Some are eternal challenges, like the social dynamic and teamwork between directors. Or there’s the problem of information GAP. You receive a huge amount of information ahead of a board meeting and you have to be able to assimilate and analyse it all. Other challenges are specific to now, like minimising the effect of the downturn or coping with new regulations.

You’re very senior. So why did you want to go back to school?

Because there’s always something new to learn! Especially if you can get into a classroom alongside other senior people and exchange experiences with them, which is exactly what happens in the INSEAD programme.

Why did you choose INSEAD and what was your experience of the International Directors Programme?

I knew the school by reputation, but the International Directors Programme was my first INSEAD programme. And it’s certainly not going to be my last. It surpassed all my expectations. The content was not just good to know; it was what we need to know as directors and really focused on real life. The faculty were very impressive, especially the two co-directors, who were the perfect match in terms of knowledge and experience. And the participants were richly experienced and highly diverse. The International Directors Programme is simply the best programme I’ve done in my career so far – and I’ve done quite a few, including an MBA.

What did you write about in your Certificate dissertation?

I wrote a recommendation paper for one of the boards that I’m on. It was a very rich experience working with Ludo on it. His feedback kept me learning and motivated. And it also help me to act with more professionalism as a member of the board.

Was gaining the Certificate particularly important to you as a female board member?

I think the INSEAD Certificate benefits both men and women. It’s great that there’s now an international qualification from a business school to help prepare and strengthen your skills for board membership. As for the issue of women board members, I’m used to being in a minority, so it isn’t very important to me personally. But I’m glad people are more aware of it now. It’s a difficult topic and part of a more general issue of diversity on boards.

Why is diversity so important – on boards and on the programme?

Diversity of age, nationality, gender, culture and social background is essential. It broadens a board’s expertise and fosters more rigorous information processing. It gives discussions quality and depth. However, it’s easier to manage in the classroom, where there’s time to explain different norms and conventions, than in the boardroom! In general, boards need to be more aware that the benefits of diversity really do outweigh the costs and the challenges.

What kind of impact has the programme had on your work?

I’m more focused. I rethink all my assumptions. Above all, I’m aware of issues that could become critical, long before they actually are critical.

Would you recommend the programme and the Certificate to others?

Not only would I recommend it. I do recommend it – and at every opportunity.

The International Directors Programme, co-directed by Professor Ludo Van der Heyden and Timothy Rowley, consists of three three-day modules on campus over six months. Once participants have completed the programme, they are eligible to gain the INSEAD Certificate in Corporate Governance, which involves writing a paper to show that they are putting their learning into practice.

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