This article originally appeared on Business Day.
How much more scrutiny do boards of directors face these days? By one measure, a lot more: the number of activist investor deals rose 34% in 2000-14.
According to Bain & Company’s analysis, activist investors are now the fastest-growing class of institutional investors and more than 75% of their demands involve nominating or replacing directors on boards.
For directors, this is simply a fact of life and the best way for a company to avoid activist attention is simply to deliver the fundamental performance that leads to long-term value creation. A company that creates a sustainable competitive advantage, executes well and reinvests to solidify its strategy will find that its share price reflects its value accurately. And if there is no arbitrage to be had, most activists will hunt elsewhere. So how can boards ensure their company is able to grow sustainably?
In research for The Founder’s Mentality, the co-authors found that 85% of the time, the barriers to sustainable growth are not external, but internal, and include bureaucracy, ability to motivate and retain talent, and slowness to decide, act or redeploy. Among the largest companies, executives cited these barriers 94% of the time.
Joachim Breidenthal and Chris Zook are partners in Bain & Company’s Johannesburg and Boston offices, respectively.