The inaugural Singapore Board Diversity Index recognises Singtel, Singapore Exchange, and Mapletree Commercial Trust as the top three Singapore-listed companies (SGX) that embrace diversity on their corporate boards.

Launched by Willis Towers Watson, developed in partnership with the Singapore Institute of Directors (SID) and supported by BoardAgender, the Index tracks primary-listed companies on the Singapore Exchange that embrace diversity on their corporate boards and benchmarks them against eight dimensions. These are:

  1. Gender
  2. Age
  3. Tenure
  4. Board independence
  5. Cultural ethnicity
  6. International experience
  7. Domain expertise
  8. Industry knowledge.

Shai Ganu, Managing Director and Executive Compensation Global Practice Leader, Willis Towers Watson said, "Companies in the past may have focused on physical attributes of diversity such as gender and age. However, progressive companies focus on ensuring diversity of thought and experiences on the Board.

"Directors with diverse backgrounds bring different perspectives and ideas that avoid group-think and help to enhance the board’s deliberations and decision-making process."

Based on data as at 30 June 2019 from 704 companies with primary-listing on the SGX, these are the top 10 companies in the Singapore Board Diversity Index:

  1. Singtel
  2. Singapore Exchange
  3. Mapletree Commercial Trust
  4. Mewah International
  5. Sembcorp Industries
  6. Fraser and Neave
  7. Capitaland
  8. Hong Lai Huat Group
  9. StarHub
  10. Singapore Post 

The report also carries segment-based results for firms, categorised into Large-Cap, Mid-Cap, Small-Cap and Real-Estate Investment Trusts and Business Trusts in the ranking.

As such, the following is the ranking for Large-Cap companies (more than S$1 billion) in terms of their board diversity:

  1. Singtel
  2. Singapore Exchange
  3. Sembcorp Industries
  4. Fraser and Neave
  5. CapitaLand
  6. Starhub
  7. Singapore Post
  8. Silverlake Axis
  9. DBS Group
  10. Sembcorp Marine | SIA Engineering

Adrian Chan, Vice Chair of the Singapore Institute of Directors said, “A cognitively diverse board brings different experiences and views to the table, and is a cornerstone of good corporate governance. Just as important, the contention of ideas in a diverse group has to be constructive, to foster more wide-ranging discussions, leading to better decisions and enhanced, sustained business performance."

In terms of board diversity, the following are the top ranked Mid-Cap companies (S$300 million – S$1 billion):

1. Mewah International
2. Yeo Hiap Seng
3. GSH Corporation
4. Pacific Century Regional Developments
5. The Straits Trading Company
6. Metro Holdings | QAF Limited
8. Far East Orchard
9. Chip Eng Seng Corporation | Avarga Ltd | Low Keng Huat Ltd

For number-one ranked Singtel, Chairman Lee Theng Kiat said, “We believe a diverse board is critical to good corporate governance and strategic oversight, and are honoured that the Singapore Board Diversity Index has recognised Singtel’s commitment. Given today’s fast-changing economic, business and technology landscape, the breadth of perspective, expertise and backgrounds on the Board allows us to better identify and evaluate significant opportunities and risks, resulting in better decision-making and outcomes."

The following are the Small-Cap companies (less than S$300 million) making it to the top 10 on the basis of their strong board diversity:

1. Hong Lai Huat Group
2. Hai Leck Holdings
3. Pollux Properties | Sim Leisure Group | Singapore Kitchen Equipment
6. Chuan Hup Holdings | Fortress Minerals
8. Sunningdale Tech | Sarine Technologies
9. Singapore Shipping Corporation

Rounding up the last of the ranking, these are the top 10 REITS and Business Trusts on the eight dimensions of board diversity:

1. Mapletree Commercial Trust
2. Ascendas India Trust
3. Mapletree Industrial Rust
4. OUE Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust
5. CapitaLand Commercial Trust
6. Mapletree Logistics Trust
7. Asian Pay Television Trust
8. Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust
9. Keppel Infrastructure Trust
10. Hutchinson Port Holdings Trust

The Board Diversity Index is based on insights from research and studies conducted by Willis Towers Watson. "Companies have the transformative power and social responsibility to contribute to a more open, diverse and inclusive society. We all need to play a role in helping to collectively champion the change. A diverse board sets the tone at the top of the organisation,” concluded Shai. 

Photo / 123RF

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