WU hosts 14th Austrian Supervisory Board Day


Simple, easy to understand, and convincing – How supervisory boards home in on what matters most

Last week, WU (Vienna University of Economics and Business) hosted the 14th Austrian Supervisory Board Day. Together with the two organizers, Susanne Kalss (head of the Institute for Business Law) and Werner Hofmann (head of the Institute for Strategic Management), WU Rector Rupert Sausgruber welcomed around 400 participants, who discussed issues related to the general topic of how supervisory boards need to translate complex matters into a form that is simple, easy to understand, and convincing.

The event’s high-caliber participants discussed current developments and the associated challenges for business enterprises. Focusing on the automotive industry, Hans Dieter Pötsch, supervisory board chair of VW AG, highlighted issues such as the phase-out of the combustion engine, carbon neutrality, and viable ways towards a greener future. In his view, current regulations at the national and European levels are hampering rather than driving the necessary steps forward. He said that due its large scale, his company was able to deal with these regulations, but they were simply too much to handle for many other businesses, especially in the supplier industry.

US elections looming large

Stefan Simon, member of the management board of Deutsche Bank AG, highlighted the different approaches to ESG (environmental, social, and governance) issues in North America and Europe. He said the outcome of the US elections is bound to have a decisive impact: If Trump wins, all ESG efforts might be abandoned, while under Biden, the US technology leadership would continue, with less regulation and extensive economic stimulus measures. In Europe, on the other hand, detailed regulations and extensive reporting are the order of the day. Simon has a clear recommendation: Europe should reconsider this approach to get back to the top.

The duty to ensure an appropriate balance between work and family life

Joachim Schönbeck, CEO of Andritz AG, and Wolfgang Leitner, deputy chair of the supervisory board and main shareholder of Andritz AG, see great opportunities for technology-driven solutions in their company’s internationally oriented fields of business. Elisabeth Brameshuber, professor at the University of Vienna, called upon supervisory boards to create reliable frameworks of rules and regulations for parents with childcare responsibilities. She said this was not simply a whim of the managers but a statutory duty of the supervisory boards. Christine Catasta, chair of the supervisory board of BIG, Cord Prinzhorn, chair of the supervisory board of Lenzing AG, and Jasmin Soravia, member of the supervisory board of GrECo Group, discussed the essential competences of the supervisory board with regard to sustainability issues and emphasized its role in supporting the company by making complex interrelationships clear and easy to understand. As Susanne Kalss summed up, “It’s important to simplify and streamline existing rules and complex processes in order to be open to future developments.” Werner Hoffmann adds, “This approach can and should be taken to open up space for innovation again.”

Participants at the 2024 Supervisory Board Day included Herta Stockbauer, BKS Bank AG, Christoph Greiner, Greiner AG, Monika Kircher, RWE, Friedrich Rödler, Erste Group, Erich Hampel, B&C Private Foundation, Peter Hofbauer, Austrian Audit Oversight Authority, and Ulrike Klemm-Pöttinger, Austrian Financial Reporting Enforcement Panel.

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