VIOD 2020 Annual Forum: “Reshaping Corporate Governance in the New Normal”

Hanoi, Vietnam, December 10th, 2020 – Vietnam Institute of Directors (“VIOD”) successfully organized the 2020 Annual Forum with the topic: “Reshaping Corporate Governance in the New Normal”.

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Forum was held online with the participation of the State Securities Commission, HOSE and the main support from International Finance Corporation (“IFC”) in collaboration with SECO and the Japanese government.

The forum attracted Board members and business leaders in the VIOD network, market regulators, the press, and guest speakers including national and international prestigious experts. New corporate governance trends, practices and experiences that the Board of Directors had implemented to deal with and overcome the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic were shared and updated at the forum.

Mr. Darryl Dong, Principal Financial Specialist from International Finance Corporation (IFC) opened the forum by sharing about “World economic prospects in the context of COVID-19 and Vietnam”: The year 2020 with the severe impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic is gradually closing in the circumstance of uncertainties in global scale and all levels, from individuals to countries, from small companies to large corporations, have restarted their operations differently – a new normal state. However, in the “gloomy picture” 2020 globally, Vietnam has been fortunate to be a bright spot on both fronts: prevention of the COVID-19 pandemic and maintenance and restoration of the economy. Vietnam is among the few countries with positive economic growth rate. He also expressed his sincere thanks to the Government of Vietnam for drastically guiding the prevention and control pandemic activities and that being in Vietnam in 2020 was a real fortune. More than ever, the world is watching Vietnam. Vietnamese economy will definitely recover. The way Vietnam prioritizes the safety of its people, develops its human resources, and faces the new normal will help Vietnamese economy’s resilience in a more solid and sustainable manner in the coming time.

Mr. Dominic Scriven OBE, Chairman of Dragon Capital, Vice Chairman of VIOD’s Board of Directors shared investors’ perspective on “Opportunities and challenges for Board members in Vietnam” in the new normal state of the economy. According to him, Vietnam was leading the economic recovery momentum in 2020 and had the brightest prospects in Southeast Asia in 2021. The integration into the new normal is more than helping businesses return to normal operations and growth but also a new opportunity to focus more on sustainable production and business operations. From the perspective of an institutional investor, he emphasized the essential contribution of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors to the businesses’ sustainable development. The Board of Directors plays the leadership role in examining the impacts of Covid-19 on businesses and the community in a broader and deeper manner. He also shared the practical message that investors and directors should think about: If Covid-19 was just the tip of the iceberg, what would the future be like? What would we need to do, and how to do it to steer the company through the pandemic to both meet the interests of shareholders and stakeholders. Covid-19 is therefore a test of leadership capability in the new business context, and the Boards needs to demonstrate their ability to flexibly respond in performing their corporate governance roles. In terms of future trends, company culture and its reputation will determine the business’s viability. Mr. Dominic Scriven OBE emphasized that the rapidly changing environment required companies to focus on and continually improve and to take care of the benefits of a “sustainable community” to protect the future for generations to come – this should be prioritized than immediate profits.

On the side of regulators, the representative of the State Securities Commission, Vice Chairman Pham Hong Son said: “Good corporate governance is invaluable and becomes more and more important, particularly in difficult times, and especially the importance of transparency and consistency when interacting with the stakeholders and shareholders. Companies should maintain and promote the key good governance principles such as accountability, transparency and sustainability”.

The forum also spent considerable time for the seminar “Reshaping corporate governance in the new normal” with reputable guest speakers representing viewpoints from investors (Mr. Vu Quang Thinh, CEO of Dynam Capital, Member of VIOD Board of Directors), regulators (Ms. Tran Anh Dao, Deputy General Director of Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange), Board of Directors (Ms. Vu Thi Thuan, Chairman of Traphaco’s Board of Directors), and Board of Management (Mr. Le Tri Thong, CEO and member of the Board of Directors of PNJ).

The guest speakers shared their experiences in facing COVID-19 in 2020, providing comments on the 2021 trend in order to set a feasible plan taking into account the uncertainties of the pandemic, changing consumer behavior, and people’s living manners after 2020. In fact, the pandemic is still there, but it has not only brought about difficulties and challenges for businesses, it has also opened up many opportunities. However, the Board of Directors and the Board of Management should be able to develop various scenarios, and in all of them more teamwork spirit than ever will need to be built and optimized. Stakeholder consensus in balancing resources, strategic goals and immediate profits will be key to help businesses to recover and continue to grow. Agreeing with Mr. Dominic Scriven OBE, Ms. Vu Thi Thuan shared the story of building and development of Traphaco’s corporate culture over the past years (before the appearance of Covid-19), and it is during this challenging period that the corporate culture has helped Traphaco resist and safely overcome the difficulties to quickly stabilize its production.

At the 2020 Forum, VIOD also announced the 2019 ASEAN Corporate Governance Scorecard Results for Vietnamese companies. Mr. Vu Chi Dung, General Director of SSC International Cooperation Department, Chief Secretariat of the ASEAN Capital Market Forum announced and congratulated the top three listed companies in Vietnam to be recognized as good CG enterprises in the region, namely: FPT Joint Stock Company, Novaland Investment Joint Stock Company and Vietnam Dairy Products Joint Stock Company (Vinamilk). ACGS2019 also marked the first time Vietnam had a representative, Vinamilk, honored in the ASEAN Asset Class category. Representing the honored TOP3 Vietnam enterprises, Mr. Le Thanh Liem, a member of Vinamilk Board of Directors, shared the joy and emotions when his company was transparently assessed and honored from experts and regional scientific and standard scoring board. He wished that from the next ASEAN Corporate Governance Scorecard (2021), there would be more businesses eligible to participate in the assessment and more Vietnamese enterprises would be ranked at the ASEAN Asset Class as Vinamilk in ACGS2019.

Ms. Ha Thu Thanh, Chairman of the VIOD Board of Directors, and Chairman of Deloitte Vietnam, ended the Forum with a message about the general economic context with a hope for the period of 2021-2025 when the legal framework is improved as sharing by Ms. Tran Anh Dao in the seminar. In such spirit, 2021 will be the year when businesses recover, maintain and grow via internal reforms of the Board of Directors, improvement of Company Charters, together with a set of corporate governance and operating regulations in line with specific business conditions of enterprises. In the new normal state, BODs, with the role of corporate governance leadership and effective overseeing of strategy, need to focus on and invest in development and strengthening of the corporate culture – as necessary vaccines to help businesses be immune from difficulties to continue to sustainably grow under different conditions and challenges. VIOD will continue to accompany the Board of Directors in timely provision of in-depth training courses for BOD members, seminars, advisory services and support for corporate governance in the coming time in order to create and expand the business community meeting regional and international corporate governance standards.