Press Release

Bank Director Releases 2021 Governance Best Practices Survey Results

Tricia Lesh
Vice President of Marketing

Study Explores How Boards View Strategic Planning, Working With Management and Diversity.

BRENTWOOD, TENN., May 11, 2021 – Bank Director, the leading information resource for directors and officers of financial institutions nationwide, today released its 2021 Governance Best Practices Survey, sponsored by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP. The findings uncover how boards view strategic planning, governance practices, board composition and their relationship with management.

“Strategic discipline starts with a bank’s leadership team – and the board should play an important role in developing the strategy and monitoring its execution,” says Emily McCormick, vice president of research at Bank Director. “Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, according to the results of the 2021 Governance Best Practices Survey.”

Most boards don’t drive strategic planning at their institutions, according to the survey. Just 20% say the board drives this process and collaborates with management to develop the strategic plan. Most – 56% – say their board establishes the risk appetite but relies on management to develop the strategy.

Three-quarters of respondents say their board reviews the strategic plan annually, and the vast majority believe their strategic planning process is effective. But of the 11% who believe their process to be ineffective, some express regret over the lack of input from their board.

“Our law firm is pleased to again sponsor Bank Director’s Governance Best Practices Survey. In my governance work with boards over the years, I’ve found there is no more effective reference point than the practices of other well-run companies,” says James J. McAlpin Jr., a partner at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. “Best practices are important in every industry but of particular importance in the banking industry. The information in this year’s survey results should be very helpful to bank boards across the U.S.”

Key Findings Include:

Needle Moving on Board Diversity
Pressure has been mounting to diversify corporate boards, and the survey finds that almost 60% of respondents believe that fostering diversity in the boardroom improves corporate performance. Thirty-nine percent have three or more board members who bring diverse characteristics to the board, based on gender, race or ethnicity.

Competitive Pressures
Respondents say that pressure on net interest margins (52%), the ability to grow organically in their markets (44%) and meeting customer demands for digital options (37%) threaten the long-term viability of their bank.

Interacting With Management
The vast majority of independent directors, chairs and lead directors believe they’re getting the right level of information from bank executives. Almost all interact at least quarterly with the bank’s CEO (98%), CFO (94%) and chief risk officer (85%).

Board Responsibilities
When asked to identify the board’s most important functions, the majority of respondents point to holding management accountable for achieving goals in a safe and sound manner (61%) and meeting its fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders (60%). Just 34% say that setting strategy is a key board responsibility.

Credible Challenge
Three-quarters say their board has several directors willing to ask tough questions when warranted; 92% find their management team receptive to feedback.

Assessing Performance
Less than half conduct an annual evaluation of their board’s performance, which most use to assess the effectiveness of the board as a whole (84%), improve governance processes (60%), identify training needs for the board (59%) or assess committee performance (58%).

The survey includes the views of more than 200 independent directors, chairs and chief executives of U.S. banks below $50 billion in assets. Full survey results are now available online at

About Bank Director
Bank Director reaches the leaders of the institutions that comprise America’s banking industry. Since 1991, Bank Director has provided board-level research, peer-insights and in-depth executive and board services. Built for banks, Bank Director extends into and beyond the boardroom by providing timely and relevant information through Bank Director magazine, board training services and the financial industry’s premier event, Acquire or Be Acquired. For more information, please visit

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP
With over 1,400 lawyers in 30 offices across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP is a fully integrated global law firm that provides clients with connected legal advice, wherever and whenever they need it. The firm is known for its relationship-driven, collaborative culture, diverse legal experience and industry-shaping innovation and offers clients one of the most active M&A, real estate, financial services, litigation and corporate risk practices in the world.

For more information, please contact Bank Director’s Director of Marketing, Deahna Welcher, at

Tricia Lesh

Vice President of Marketing

Tricia Lesh is Vice President of Marketing for Bank Director and manages the production and development projects for and In addition, Tricia is focused on leading the direction of the company’s marketing, public relations and branding initiatives. A graduate of Belmont University, Tricia has more than 20+ years of experience in the financial industry, working in institutions with assets ranging from $500 million to $2.2 billion.