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Lessons and insights: Reflecting on a year of board membership

For anyone seeking professional growth, exposure to new skillsets and the chance to help an organisation make its mark, serving on a board is an ideal learning experience, Loane Avenell writes in a look back at her “remarkable” first year with the Australian Investors Association.

Among the many highlights of this year, a big step that I was fortunate to take was joining the Australian Investors Association (AIA) board. This has been a truly amazing, enlightening experience.

The initial appeal was that I am an investor myself, and I had always found the AIA’s commitment to supporting people like me inspiring. And, as someone who believes in the strength and value of mentoring, I loved the idea of being part of the information transfer in this area. I also believed my experience in networking and mentoring would enable me to be a valuable contributor in this role, while also continuing to build my own skillsets by working in a new area.

One of the first things I found after joining was that the incredible diversity of skills and backgrounds among board members has been a significant source of learning. The AIA stands as proof that when it comes to boards, embracing the value of diversity is essential. Each member brings a unique perspective, and this in turn enriches the collaborative environment.

  • Diversity also engenders an inherent awareness of what it takes to create a respectful and supportive space. That doesn’t just mean helping people feel comfortable – though this is, of course, a major benefit. Rather, because each board member is so comfortable and confident in having a voice, the overall collaborative environment is enhanced with a much freer exchange of ideas.

    I was able to join in time to bring my experience in marketing and communications to the AIA’s successful annual conference, which was an amazing introduction to the association. Interacting with the many attendees, speakers and sponsors who participated meant I got some deep and invaluable insights into the emerging investment landscape up front.

    Soon after that, the AIA and the Australian Shareholders’ Association (ASA) amalgamated, providing another remarkable learning opportunity. The exposure to ASA’s advocacy role for Australian shareholders was itself eye-opening, and working through the complexities and nuances of such a major transition for both bodies provided a deep insight into the thinking that goes into organisational management.

    For all these reasons and so many more, board membership been such an incredible experience for me in a short time, and I’d recommend it as a fantastic learning opportunity for anyone. The value that sitting on a board brings to professional development, the exposure to different skillsets and to networking and mentoring, and the opportunity to guide an organisation that makes a meaningful community contribution cannot be underestimated.

    Of course, it’s a major commitment, and because board members are expected to show leadership and understand the full gamut of risk facing an organisation, this has been another part of my learning journey. For anyone considering a board role, it’s worth considering formal training, such as the Company Directors Course offered by the Australian Institute of Company Directors; also key is fully understanding and considering one’s personal exposure, insurance and indemnities.

    For anyone interested, a good pathway I can highly recommend is the Observership Program, which provides direct exposure to board roles and mentorship from directors and is open to our future leaders (people between the ages 25 and 40).

    As my first year in this role concludes, I want to express my gratitude to the AIA board members for their incredible efforts. Working alongside individuals like Jamie Nemstas, Nadine Wake, Ben Lister, Zac Zacharia, Lasse Petersen and Hannah Schwartz has been a privilege. Special appreciation also goes to Tehani Suafoa for her tireless work. I would also like to acknowledge Steven Mabb and Rachel Waterhouse at ASA, along with others on the ASA board, for their warm welcome and support.

    Thank you to everyone who has made this board experience so incredible. The lessons learned and insights gained will undoubtedly shape my future career endeavours.

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