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NEDs sharing wisdom from the boardroom

Patrick Young is not only an experienced Non-Executive Director but also a prolific author and thought leader on the future of financial structures. With an entrepreneurial background spanning across continents and sectors, he brings a wealth of diverse experience to the table, from FinTech to media.

Known for his lateral thinking and a strong global understanding, Patrick describes himself as a member of the ‘bald’ generation, Born Analogue but Living in the Digital age.

What useful advice would you give to someone who is at the beginning of their boardroom career?

Initially, my journey to paid NED roles was a natural progression from mentoring and advising SMEs to eventually sitting on those boards.

My advice would be, start with understanding the basics of governance by enrolling on a course or at least read up about it. It is a great idea to join an association board, like the Swiss futures and Options Association I joined, to get experience and grasp how effective boards are run. Because financial institutions are so heavily regulated, it prepared me well for any boards I joined next.

It is also important to be prepared to turn down roles that don't fit your risk profile or align with your ability to contribute meaningfully. Remember, if a NED position doesn't let you sleep at night, it's not worth taking on.

How did you make the transition into becoming a NED? How do you keep up to date and on top of being in ‘good shape’ in the Boardroom?

An early mentor of mine pointed out that as a NED, you've got to let the kids run around in the playground and occasionally fall over. Your job is making sure that, whoever is running around with a hammer, is stopped as fast as possible to prevent injury. Your role is to ensure that all the systems are in place to try and protect the company as best you can.

Another important thing to bear in mind is, although your experience and knowledge from the past is valued, you constantly need to keep up to date as a NED to make sure that your skills, knowledge and mindset are relevant. Although the boards you are on should provide ongoing trainings and briefings, it is your responsibility to keep up to date and requires voracious reading, staying informed on the latest in financial regulations, and to have a continuous dialogue with general counsel.

What has been the best and the worst thing about being a NED, the biggest challenge and the most valuable thing you've learnt so far?

The best part is the ability to make a difference through guiding and safeguarding companies and making sure effective systems are in place.

I have a great example of the worst that can happen. It was when the celebrity chef and entrepreneur Prue Leith sat on the board of a well-known UK bank and privately confessed to a fellow board member that she didn’t understand a word of the derivatives risk section in the board pack. He just said ‘don’t worry, I don’t think any of us understand it, but they are the people that are making us the money…’ Prue left shortly after. The lesson is, that when things are going swimmingly, it’s easy to get caught with the tide.

The most challenging thing for me has been sitting on the board of family run businesses. You are very much an ‘outsider’ and often faced with challenging generational traditions that might be in the way of the success of the business, that are often not received well.

The most valuable learning for me has been that the information you are given might entirely be anecdotal. Therefore, it is even more important to pay attention to body language and how people behave in the boardroom. You can also learn a lot about the business by investing time in conversations with people at all levels within the business.

NEDs are supposed to bring wisdom to the boardroom. What does that mean and how would you describe a wise NED?

A strategic mindset aligns with the company's values and goals, continually pondering the future and with a holistic view and understanding how the business needs to align with that.

To be wise is to be open and curious about the world around. It is not about being the most vocal person on the board, listening and observing is often underrated. An example from my own experience was a joint venture board I sat on recently. It was widely diverse in terms of nationalities and perspectives and developed into a very difficult marriage. My job here was to stay silent and listen to all parties, making sure everyone felt heard, it is only at that point you can start building bridges.

The wise thing to do is to unpeel the onion, to understand what the problem is and avoid blaming. Get to the bottom of the point and get a plan from management how they're going to resolve it.

Wisdom in the boardroom means understanding the essence of the business, building relationships beyond board papers, and being open to global perspectives to avoid the echo chamber.

What do you do to step out of your ‘echo chamber’ to challenge your own thinking and broaden your mindset and perspective?

I value the insights from younger generations and people from various demographics. They have a fresh perspective, experience and age can sometimes create blind spots.

I also read extensively from diverse political and geographical perspectives where my daily newspaper is the South China Morning Post. This is to give me a different perspective from the other side of the world to where I live and helps me understanding different viewpoints.

What transferrable learnings and different perspective could you take to the boardroom from your life outside your work and professional life?

I believe by having a curious and broad mindset you can learn from everything you come across in life.

My passion for old cars and motorsport has given me access to a wealth of teachers. It is often people successful in business who are there watching, and there are many conversations over the years that has given me invaluable insight into the world of business.

I am also a prolific writer and have written thousands of articles for many publications on wide topics. The understanding of media and how to tell stories helps me asking better questions and challenging the marketing executives.

Equally, you can learn a lot about strategy just from watching a Rugby game.

What question would you like to ask a peer NED yourself?

I would ask them about their motivation: Why are they here? What drove them to join the board, and why do they stay?


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The Non-Executive Directors’ Association (NEDA), is a professional Association that develops and promote competent NEDs throughout their boardroom career with the right skills, knowledge and mindset. To find out more how we support our members to stay up to date through certified training, insight updates, coaching, networking and more, please go to




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