Commercial profile: UCD Smurfit Executive Development programme

Commercial profile: UCD Smurfit Executive Development programme
Helen Brophy: Director, UCD Smurfit Executive Development

Corporate governance training is now a minimum requirement for chief executives - and the UCD Smurfit Executive Development programme fully equips business leaders in this area

UCD Smurfit Executive Development entered the Financial Times ranking for the first time in 2016. This year, for the second consecutive year, the Smurfit Executive Development Open Programmes were ranked first in Ireland, 26th in Europe and 48th in the world.

Upon this announcement, Martin Shanahan, chief executive, IDA Ireland, commented: “Attracting FDI to Ireland remains highly competitive and as an inward-investment development agency, we must demonstrate that Ireland has world-class infrastructure to both attract and retain multinationals.

“Having a top business school and Executive Development Centre considered among the best in the world is just one of many factors which help IDA Ireland build a compelling inward-investment proposition for Ireland. With Brexit on the horizon, UCD Smurfit Executive Development will soon become the only Top 50 globally ranked EU-based centre in an English-speaking country.”

Helen Brophy, director, UCD Smurfit Executive Development, cites the collective efforts both of the academic faculty led by Professor Patrick Gibbons and management, who, with the backing of the Irish and North American Advisory Boards, have delivered continuous improvements over many years to provide impactful executive education programmes for our national and international participants.

“We are seeing the fruits of the transformational €5 million investment in our state-of-the-art Executive Development Centre, opened last September 2017 by our founding benefactor Dr Michael Smurfit. It was designed to integrate the very best facilities of the world’s elite Executive Education providers.”

UCD Smurfit School is the only business school in Ireland with the global triple crown of accreditation, AACSB, EQUIS and AMBAs. In 2012 Smurfit Executive Development launched the MSc Business Pathway, whereby once a participant completes three part-time diplomas within five years, they will be awarded a Masters in Business Leadership or a Masters in Executive Coaching.

The diplomas have been developed specifically to work with the lifestyles of busy professionals. Most involve six modules, delivered over nine months, on Fridays and Saturdays.

UCD Smurfit Executive Development delivers programmes to over 2,000 business executives annually on-site in its Blackrock, Dublin campus and off-site in client locations both in Ireland and internationally (Europe, the US and Asia). These include UCD-accredited programmes covering areas such as Strategy, Advanced Management Performance, Leadership and Corporate Governance.

Executive Development delivers quantifiable results at each stage of one’s career journey, no more so than at senior executive level.

With Corporate Governance issues becoming more and more important across all areas of business, training in this area has become a minimum requirement for chief executives and board members. The UCD Smurfit Diploma in Corporate Governance imparts the technical competence necessary to carry out the varied tasks required of senior executives in governance positions and current and prospective company directors.

Stephanie Manahan, CEO Central Remedial Clinic

It also offers an in-depth knowledge of corporate governance and a sound knowledge and understanding of the legal and regulatory framework relevant to directors and board members. Furthermore, alumni are qualified to carry out the varied tasks required of company directors.

One such alumnae, Stephanie Manahan, chief executive of the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC), addresses the importance of corporate governance expertise.

“When I took up my current role, I knew that a focus on Governance was going to be absolutely critical to re-establishing the reputation of the CRC and to ensure I could stand over how it was run,” she says.

The history of corporate governance issues at CRC was a deciding factor for Manahan so she ensured it was prioritised over other development goals.

“The UCD Corporate Governance programme provided the toolkit which enabled me to embark on a transformative journey with the CRC,” she says. “In fact, at times the programme read like a textbook for my new role; from legislation to regulation, strategy to risk and from financial statements to performance improvement - everything was covered.

“I was looking to learn and upskill and to ensure that I had the latest information on corporate governance so I could support the board and deliver on what was required of me in my new role. And to this end, the programme exceeded my expectations; the learning was tremendous, the course participants dynamic and the tutors were engaged and interested in our learning.”

Indeed, the charity head believes the excellent course content combined with the professionalism of tutors is what sets this programme apart from others of its kind, and she would encourage executives across all sectors to undertake the same course.

“Personally I think every chief executive, board trustee or director should consider this programme,” she says. “It covers key essential components which every chief executive needs to know, it links legislation and regulation to business delivery and ultimately to the responsibilities of the boardroom.

“Particularly in the corporate governance space, expectations to ensure good governance are an absolute - and the tolerance for failure in governance from the public, from stakeholders, funders and investors, is zero - and boards will not be forgiven for failings in this area.”

As every student knows, applying acquired knowledge into practice can be challenging, but Stephanie Manahan says by using her newfound skills on a daily basis, she can ensure high standards and total transparency for her organisation.

“As a chief executive, when I am talking about good governance it’s [in regard to] applying the learning as a part of my everyday, and key to this is setting the right cultural tone in all I do,” she says. “Of course it’s evolving all the time, so it’s essential to keep up to date and I am a member of the IOD, the IPA Governance Forum, and regularly attend the events hosted by CGAI.

“In the charitable sector, the briefings from the CRA are excellent and there are many supports from the WHEEL, CII and the Carmichael Centre who all regularly host seminars and briefings. Also, many of the professional firms host briefings on regulatory and governance issues.

“So I go about embedding the best practice I learned from the programme into CRC’s operations through living good governance in all I do, applying it to every aspect of the CRC and ensuring that we have an open and questioning organisation which encourages discussion with clients, staff and supporters.”

As well as learning all about corporate governance herself, the chief executive has had to impart her knowledge to other board members – but this, she says, was plain sailing.

“Everyone was ready to be the best we could be for our clients and the children we serve,” she says. “We had a lot to do, but we were energised and enthusiastic and had such a drive to get it right. Especially as the programme gave me the tools to deliver on a transformative journey - and within three years of coming in to post, the CRC was being shortlisted for governance awards.

“So I have become a governance geek – I love the topic and can really see how it can help transform and enable an organisation to focus on what really matters, because if you get the governance right, everything else will follow.”

Information Session

Breakfast briefing: UCD Smurfit Executive Part-time Diploma in Corporate Governance
Venue: UCD Smurfit Executive Development Centre, Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock
Date: Monday, July 23 at 7.30am‌

‌The UCD Diploma in Corporate Governance is a one-year part-time fully accredited programme (NFQ Level 9) led by Professor Niamh Brennan.

‌Whether the issue is financial resilience, corporate strategy, executive compensation, or regulatory compliance, this part-time UCD programme will help participants promote sound governance. Divided over two 12-week semesters, it provides participants with the knowledge and skills necessary to carry out the increasingly onerous duties and responsibilities of company directors.

The breakfast briefing event will commence at 7.30am with a presentation on the Diploma programme by Prof Niamh Brennan, followed by a Q&A session. Alumni will also share their experience of the programme.‌

To attend, please register your attendance by email: [email protected] or phone: 01-7168080.

Related Articles

More from The Business Post