How can boards be more digital? | Ekta Singh-Bushell, former COO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Recently appointed Non-Executive Director for Datatec, Ekta Singh-Bushell, shares her insights on cyber security and digital transformation, as well as comments on her Nurole experience and how she would invest £10,000.
Ekta Singh-Bushell serves on public and private corporate boards bringing diverse global management experience and expertise in financial, digital and technology, cybersecurity and risk operations. She was Chief Operating Officer of the Executive Office at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and prior to that had a 17+ year career as a senior managing partner with EY where she led transformations across multiple industries impacted by digital, technology, data and cyber. She has lived and worked in India, UK and USA, and has had hands-on management experience in 40+ countries. She currently serves on the board of TTEC (NASDAQ:TTEC), prev. Teletech, and is a Strategic Board Advisor for Decision GPS LLC and LifeStream [Taxonometrics].
Through Nurole, she joined the board of JSE listed global IT solutions and services provider Datatec (JSE:DTC), which operates in over 50 countries and has over 8,000 employees.
What are the key lessons boards can learn from your experience founding and building a successful business in the digital transformation space?
Digital is complex and very much a ‘suitcase’ word which is not a once and done – it’s a journey of continuous improvement and innovation. Some of the key lessons that stand out for me include:
- Boards need to make sure that the company’s values, strategy, talent management and incentives are aligned to and support a culture of innovation.
- Successful DT (Digital Transformation) includes everything from end-to-end CX (Customer Experience), the data and analysis to glean insights and the digital supply chain to deliver products and services to exceed Customer expectations. Boards therefore need a diversity of skill sets and awareness including DT practitioners across functions from digital sales, digital marketing and digital operations, to Cyber.
- Board, companies and industries that still believe they are only B2B need to appreciate that they are really B2B2C and understanding with whom, where, when and how that interaction plays out, is a non-negotiable to success in digital.
- Boards need to bring not just oversight, but insights and foresight across the three hallmarks of a successful digital transformation, which include:
How can boards ensure Cyber & information security becomes an area of competitive differentiation?
To use a football analogy – companies need to assess whether they go on the offensive or stay defensive. The former is about demonstrating positive resilience and the latter is about protection and being reactionary. Depending on your industry, consider setting up a separate technology and innovation committee or subcommittee that will focus on how Cyber can be a strategic and competitive differentiator. It’s an obvious opportunity for global tech services and financial services companies, but even for more traditional industries like Industrials, Consumer and Oil & Gas where the Internet of Things is opening them up to huge Cyber risk. It’s unrealistic to expect the Audit, Risk & Compliance Committee with their overloaded agenda to do full justice and take appropriate action to make Cyber and information security an area of competitive differentiation.
Boards need to ensure that at least one board member is, or has been, a Cyber/info security practitioner earlier in their career – not necessarily a CISO.
What has characterised the best boards you have worked with?
The best boards demonstrate the four Cs.
- Collaboration - comes from teamwork and trusted relationships.
- Competence - requires experts in multiple fields with mutual respect for one another’s domain expertise.
- Courage - demands challenge without being challenging and disagreement without being disagreeable.
- Chemistry - what you get when you have the first three C’s.
When have you got it most wrong professionally and what did you learn?
As I was starting out my professional career, I walked away from a PhD on driverless cars and automated highways believing it would never happen in my lifetime. Well, life has a way of making the impossible inevitable. It’s all about runways and horizons.
What’s the best professional advice you ever received?
“Don’t fight city-hall and the client is always right … except when they are not, and when it’s your reputation at stake.” Sometimes you learn the hard way, that when wealth is lost, nothing is lost, when health is lost, something is lost and when character is lost, everything is lost (to quote Billy Graham).
Your Nurole Experience
How did you hear about Nurole?
From a dear friend, mentor and coach who recommended me.
How have you found the experience as a member?
Exceptional example of a successful digital disruptor!
About You - 10 Question Quick Fire
3 words the person who has worked most with you would use to characterise you?
CEO (chief energy officer), Servant-leader, Purpose-driven
My two favorite types of books are those about business and those about art/artists. My favorite book that combines both in inspiring, beautiful, visualizations is ‘The Magic of M.C. Escher’, but I have favourite bloggers more than favourite books which include Lisa Suennen of Venture Valkyrie on biotech, VC, women in investing and Ben Thompson of Stratechery on the Strategy and Business of Tech and its impact on society and others.
The Modern at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), NYC.
YOLO – You only live once – so play hard and work harder!
Sailing the Grenadines aboard the Royal Clipper in 2018… next year I’ll have a different answer hopefully.
Painting and sailing – I can’t pick one.
Seeking Alpha and down dog (yoga).
Professional achievement of which you are most proud?
The opportunity to serve on the EY Board and represent my partners in succession planning and selection of the global CEO and Chairman. Given this happens once every decade it was a very special experience.
When does your alarm go off and how many hours of sleep do you have on average?
I am deaf to alarms so don’t use them! I probably get 8 hours of sleep on average.
Best idea for a $10,000 investment?
I might need a few more zeros... an app that allows individuals to safely store, access, syndicate their PII (personally identifiable information) – especially healthcare PII – anytime, anywhere and on any device - linked to a pill that one swallows that always tracks and provides real-time alerts and advice on your health, biome, key indicators. I’d call it “DOD” Doctor On Demand.
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