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Good Governance: Make the Most of your Board Portal

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Contributing Writer

3 minutes

4 things you should be doing with yours

It’s been a while since board portals started helping credit unions move away from paper-based governance processes. These days, credit unions need to be thinking about how to use their portals creatively, to ensure they get the most out of their systems.

“Most organizations go through an evolutionary process with a board portal,” says Dottie Schindlinger, executive director of the Diligent Institute, the corporate governance research arm of Diligent Corp., New York. “The most basic function is getting the board books out in electronic form, but beyond that there are some other things that you can do.”

1. Consolidate all board information in one place.

Cris Carpluk, VP/customer engagement at OnBoard, Indianapolis, Indiana, considers a board portal “a single source of truth” for all board resources, documentation, and collaboration. “Consolidating board materials, agendas, minutes and other board-specific resources in a platform like OnBoard can yield incredible time and effort savings, especially for boards who traditionally handled these materials and activities across a loose collection of tools such as email, cloud storage (Dropbox, OneDrive) and other tools.”

Flexibility is key, adds Jennie Boden, president of consulting services for CUES strategic partner Quantum Governance L3C, Herndon, Virginia. “You should be able to move through the portal with ease and have the capability to interface with other software and dashboards,” she explains. “Everything should be integrated so that the board has access to financial data, board documents and reporting updates plus the ability to communicate with each other and the senior management team —all in one place.”

2. Facilitate virtual and asynchronous board-level communication.

In addition to sharing documents, data and information, boards can use board portals for CEO evaluations, online voting and even ongoing committee discussions. “The great thing about the technology is those committee discussions can be asynchronous, meaning you can continue talking as a committee for weeks, and everyone doesn’t have to be there at the same time,” Schindlinger says.

3. Support the decision-making work of various board groups.

OnBoard has seen credit unions use its product in innovative and “out-of-the-box” ways, Carpluk adds. “For example, before we had built a specific feature to accommodate the need for voting and approvals for loan approval committees, customers would tell us that they used their committee minutes as de facto documentation for voting and approvals.”

These same committees used OnBoard’s board book annotation feature to make notes about loan applications, which could be viewed in real-time by other committee members in OnBoard’s secure platform.

4. Better secure board information.

Schindlinger observes that, with the rise in remote meetings, security of board communications has become even more important over the last two years.

“During the pandemic, we saw about a fourfold increase in cybercrime, so sending sensitive information in an email is not a good practice,” she says. “It never was a good practice, but it’s become exponentially worse during the pandemic. We have seen many instances of ransomware, which almost always start with an infected attachment or malicious link embedded in an email.”

Using a secure board portal can alleviate these security concerns. “It allows everyone to connect through the cloud on whatever device is convenient for them,” Schindlinger says. “The system ensures encryption and security, so board members are not relying solely on the security of their home WiFi networks or public hotspots.”

Carpluk identifies increased security for board materials and sensitive information, including financials and personally identifiable information, as a significant advantage offered by board portals. “Not all board management tools offer the same security, but for its part, OnBoard was built on Microsoft Azure, which many consider the gold standard in cloud-based security,” she says.

The OnBoard platform features granular user provisioning, which allows only authorized users access to sensitive information. Carpluk gives the example of board members making notes regarding executive compensation and hiring decisions.

Citing an IBM report that found the cost of data breaches reaching record highs during the pandemic, Carpluk stresses that the importance of prioritizing data protection. “When you hear news stories about disgruntled credit union employees gaining unauthorized access to board materials and deleting crucial documents such as meeting minutes, the preventive benefits of a secure portal are immediately obvious,” she says.

Based in Missouri, Diane Franklin is a longtime contributor to Credit Union Management magazine.

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