Mon 13 Nov 2017
News - Getting to Know better: DIANA SENANAYAKE
Getting to Know better: DIANA SENANAYAKE

With a strong international background I lived, studied and worked in many countries in Europe and Asia and have over 22 years’ experience in financial services. I’m currently a Managing Director Global Client Coverage at RBC Luxembourg which I joined 12 years ago and a Director of the Executive Board of ChinaLux chamber. I spent the last 6 years in Asia heading RBC Singapore and Malaysia entities where I was a board member. Prior to joining RBC, I worked in consulting at Andersen, Deloitte and E&Y, and I hold a Bachelor degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and completed the Executive Management Program at the London Business School (LBS).

What are in your opinion, the key attributes for a Director?

From my perspective the key attributes are: Passion to always look to advance and improve companies’ businesses, maintain a critical mind and challenge ideas which are not one’s area of expertise, think strategically setting the long term vision whilst focus on short to medium term results, take tough decisions when needed and always remain attentive and alert to signs which could underline potential issues in a company.

What do you think makes a great Board?

The board composition is critical to ensure diversity of thought and remove biases to challenge the status quo. The appropriate size of boards, the mix of skills and experience of its members are elements which will render it more effective. The quality of the chairman and his/her ability to encourage transparency and open discussion to lead to efficient decisions is also critical. Ultimately the board should share strong values and hold itself to the highest level of integrity.

What would you change to improve the effectiveness of Luxembourg Boards?

For companies headquartered in Luxembourg, there are many board members that are part of the company’s management team too. Increasing the number of non-executive directors might help increase independent and more diverse views.
There is also the question of resource and in particular time allocation. In Luxembourg, there are directors that sit on several boards for companies. While this can help bring a great deal of experience to the table, there is a fine balance in ensuring the individual is not stretched too thin and has enough energy devoted to each board they sit on. Given the number of foreign companies with a Luxembourg entity the role of those Luxembourg Boards can differ as they might not be in a position to take certain strategic decisions. These country or regional Boards however do have an obligation to ensure that global decisions being taken are aligned with the local business objectives and ensure its sustainability. If not, the board needs to feel empowered to voice any concerns they may have.

What is the best or worse business decision you have ever made, and why?

Throughout my career, I have taken many business decisions and some have generated very successful outcomes and others less. It is not one great decision that matters, but the will to do the right thing that has always guided me and the ability to learn from my mistakes. A business decision is generally influenced by a number of facts and tangible elements but also by experience and knowledge, hence over the years I have learned to take business decisions faster and more
effectively. The most successful people and companies in the world have all made mistakes in the past, the secret of their success is how they acted on that mistake and learnt from it.

What does the outlook of Luxembourg look like, 10 years from now?

No one can predict the future but looking at the evolution of Luxembourg over the past 20 years coupled with the continued need from institutions around the world, I’m quite confident that the jurisdiction will continue to evolve positively. To achieved this, Luxembourg will need to continue enhancing its governance model, and companies which haven’t seriously thought about this, will certainly need to adjust their existing structures.

How can ILA contribute to the economy, better boards and society?

Looking back at the evolution of the Governance in Luxembourg since the inception of ILA in 2005, ILA can be proud of its achievements and its contribution to enhance the quality of governance in Luxembourg companies. ILA should continue providing training programs related to governance, organize networking events whereby the community can share best practices and active working groups with clear objectives. Other areas which could be envisaged are more active engagement for new members to further increase awareness on this topic, across industry sectors and company type, and subsequently increase the adoption of best practices. Given the globalization of companies and Luxembourg being an international business center, collaboration with similar bodies of other countries could be beneficial. In close collaboration with regulators, ILA is well positioned to implement a best practice evaluation system for boards and become the local body for company board certification.