Symonds’ appointment is another sign that the Combined Code, which recommends that at least one member of the audit committee should have ‘significant, recent and relevant financial experience’, has effected the non-executive appointments made by the largest UK companies.
Mina Gouran, head of board services at executive recruitment agency Korn/Ferry International, expected the trend to continue. ‘The Combined Code is so specific about what an audit committee requires, therefore CFOs and finance directors are the perfect choice to head an audit committee.’
However she warned that there is not an unlimited supply of senior finance professionals to sit on other boards: ‘Many companies are restricting their finance director to take up just one other board position, due to time constraints.’
A Deloitte survey last September revealed that there had been significant change in boardroom structure in the run-up to the Combined Code coming into effect on 1 November 2003.
The number of executive directors sitting on the boards of FTSE350 companies had fallen by 8%, while the number of non-executive directors had increased by 3%. The report said that at least another 125 non-executives would have to be appointed to 30% of the FTSE 350 companies in order to comply with the Code.
It also suggested that many non-execs would not pass the Code’s independence criteria because they were appointed more than 10 years ago.
Symonds, chairman of the Hundred Group of Finance Directors, joins the audit committee, remuneration committee and nomination committee of Diageo on 1 May. He will also chair the audit committee upon Keith Oates’ retirement after Diageo’s AGM on 20 October.
Diageo chairman Lord Blyth said: ‘I am delighted to welcome Jonathan to the board. He brings a different perspective to our boardroom and we are very much looking forward to working with him.’