Independent streak: Pythian overhauls board of directors

Rapidly growing IT services firm Pythian has appointed four new directors with a common theme: all are sitting as independents.

Until now, the company’s board was comprised of individuals who were either employed by or closely aligned with Pythian, according to a company spokesperson. This includes Andrew Waitman, who also served as CEO between 2009 and 2014 in the middle of a nearly eight-year run on Pythian’s board. Waitman, who is the CEO of SaaS firm Assent Compliance, left Pythian’s board earlier this year but remains a shareholder.

Independent directors are typically individuals who don’t own shares in the company and lack financial ties to its executives.

In Pythian’s case, the new directors are focused on growth, said CEO and board chairperson Paul Vallée in a statement.

"Pythian's leadership team is looking forward to ... drawing on their extensive expertise in IT, business and finance as we focus on expansion – of the business, the services we offer, our customer base and the company's global footprint," he said.

The new directors are:

  • Lori O'Neill: Corporate director and independent financial and governance consultant, former partner at Deloitte;

  • Gary Teelucksingh: Partner in the wealth and investment management practice of Capco, a global business and technology consulting firm;

  • Staci Trackey Meagher: Vice-president for the corporate accounts business of Microsoft; and

  • Rob White: Independent adviser to and investor in start-up technology firms. He’s also the former vice-president of mergers and acquisitions at IBM.

Independent directors are generally presumed to bring unbiased and diverse opinions to major corporate decisions, according to financial magazine Barron’s.

However, research published in 2012 by the Harvard Business School argues that many companies “appoint independent directors who are overly sympathetic to management.” Separately, The Wall Street Journal published an investigation earlier this year that questioned the independence of several outside directors of major U.S. firms.

Last month during Techopia on Tour, Ross Video chief executive David Ross – who was recently named Ottawa’s 2016 CEO of the Year – reflected on his own company’s decision to bring in outside directors in the 1990s.

He said it helped ensure that the company’s budget was defendable and forced the executives to think more critically about its R&D direction, for example.

“It totally changed the conversation,” Mr. Ross said.