LONDON -- Management can make all the difference to a company's success, and thus its share price.
The best companies are those run by talented and experienced leaders with strong, vested interests in the success of the business, held in check by a board with sound financial and business acumen. Some of the worst investments to hold are those run by executives collecting fat rewards as the underlying business goes to pot.
In this series, I'm assessing the boardrooms of companies within the FTSE 100 (UKX). I hope to separate the management teams that are worth following from those that are not. Today I am looking at Hargreaves Lansdown (ISE: HL.L) , best known for its online platform for retail investors.
Here are the key directors:
Famously set up by Peter Hargreaves and Stephen Lansdown in a spare bedroom in 1981 and floated in 2007, Hargreaves Lansdown's board is in transition from that of an owner-manager model to a fully independent board. Though shareholders may benefit from a more normal governance structure, they may suffer from the diminishing leadership of the founders.
Hargreaves and Lansdown, who respectively own 32% and 20% of the shares, together control the company. But Stephen Lansdown stood down from the chairmanship to be a non-executive director in 2009, and will leave the board next month.
When this was announced, Peter Hargreaves indicated that he would carry on for some time. As an executive controlling nearly a third of the shares, he remains the major influence on the board.
That must make for a strange governance role for chairman Michael Evans. He is a qualified actuary and was formerly chief operating officer of Scandia Life.
CEO Ian Gorham joined the company in 2009 as chief operating officer, joining the board as CEO in 2010 at 38 as the then 63-year old Peter Hargreaves stepped down. A qualified accountant he worked in the accounting industry prior to joining Hargreaves Lansdown, latterly as head of Grant Thornton's financial services practice.
A qualified accountant who formerly worked for Lloyds Banking, Tracey Taylor joined the company in 1999 and became finance director in 2008. She holds 5 million pounds worth of shares, a remarkably large holding for the FD of a company in the lower orders of the FTSE 100, and over 10 times her 2011 remuneration.
Though Ian Gorham's shareholding is minimal, the company's deferred bonus share scheme hopefully means that he will have a significant holding within a year or so.
There are four independent non executives, led by the controversial former CEO of Prudential Jonathan Bloomer.
I analyze management teams from five different angles to help work out a verdict. Here's my assessment:
1. Reputation. Management CVs and track record.
2. Performance. Success at the company.
3. Board Composition. Skills, experience, balance.
4. Remuneration.Fairness of pay, link to performance.
5. Directors' Holdings, compared to their pay.
Overall, Hargreaves Lansdown scores 17 out of 25, a decent result. While the company's performance has been remarkable, its governance is in transition which holds back the board's overall score.
I've collated all my FTSE 100 boardroom verdicts on this summary page. I hope this helps with your analysis.
Buffett's favorite FTSE share
Let me finish by adding that legendary investor Warren Buffett has always looked for impressive management teams when pinpointing which shares to buy. So I think it's important to tell you that the billionaire stock-picker has recently acquired a substantial stake in a prominent FTSE 100 company.
A special free report from The Motley Fool -- "The One UK Share Warren Buffett Loves" -- explains Buffett's purchase and investing logic in full.
And Buffett, don't forget, rarely invests outside his native United States, which to my mind makes this British blue chip -- and its management -- all the more attractive. So why not download the report today? It's totally free and comes with no further obligation.
Are you a sophisticated investor hoping to profit from this uncertain economy? We urge you to read "10 Steps to Making a Million in the Market" today -- your wealth could be transformed. Click here now to request your free, no-obligation copy. The Motley Fool is helping Britain invest. Better.
Further Motley Fool investment opportunities:
Tony does not own any shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares in Hargreaves Lansdown.
The article The Men and Women Who Run Hargreaves Lansdown originally appeared on Fool.com.
The Motley Fool owns shares of HL.L. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.
Copyright © 1995 - 2012 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.