By Hanan Ahmad – Company Secretary, du
From the day we opened our doors for business in 2007, we have worked hard to enhance and expand our range of telecommunications services in an industry that we believe is at the heart of economic and social transformation.
We are passionate about bringing people and businesses across the United Arab Emirates (UAE) together. We offer mobile and fixed telephony, broadband connectivity and IPTV services to people in their homes and businesses. As part of our evolution into an integrated ICT provider, we provide carrier services, a data hub, internet exchange facilities and satellite services for broadcasters, in addition to our traditional telephony services.
Our rapidly-growing business employs over 2,000 people of more than 60 different nationalities, thus mirroring the rich cultural diversity of the UAE. More than 7.3 million active mobile customers (almost 50 per cent of market share), 639,400 fixed line subscribers and 273,000 home services subscribers chose to use du services over our competitors, a significant achievement given the ‘saturated’ perception of the market when we launched.
So that we may remain a sustainable business, retain market share and continue on our growth trajectory, delivering continuous shareholder value, we are committed to implementing international best practice. As such, we continuously strive to maintain our position as a leading example of corporate governance in the region. Therefore, we are incredibly proud to be recognised with an Ethical Boardroom Award for corporate governance.
Promoting strong ethics
Throughout our short history, we have made sure that our operations and employees are driven towards delivering best practice and demonstrating ethical behaviour. We have established and operationally embedded an extensive suite of policies and procedures to promote integrity, accountability and a strong code of ethics. By continually evolving our governance policies to ensure greater transparency and accountability across the business, we have become synonymous with best practice and a leading example in our region.
Through our commitment to best practice, we continue to strive to adhere to international best practice guidelines in addition to being fully compliant with the Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) and Dubai Financial Market (DFM) rules, principles and procedures. Our shareholders are kept informed of all developments and invited to provide feedback and participate in all major decisions in line with best stewardship practices.
During 2014, we installed a number of new governance-based procedures aimed at various audiences, such as the SMS system, to communicate with our shareholders prior to the AGM. We also hosted SCA training sessions on governance for our board and senior management and participated in an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) case study programme to help showcase the region’s best business practices.
“Risk management is a key area of our governance systems. Our risk appetite is set by the board of directors and guided by our strategic objectives”
Our dedication to providing the best service for our board means that we continually consider new ways of promoting communication and engagement between the board and all of its stakeholders and developing internal procedures to integrate governance procedures into everyday activities. One example would be our nominee director guidelines, which assist those directors in managing conflicts of interest. We are proud to be one of the very few firms in the Middle East to compile dedicated corporate governance and sustainability reports.
We are also one of the few companies in the Middle East to provide an electronic shareholder voting system and translation services during our AGM meetings in a drive to improve stakeholder understanding and access. We have also implemented a dedicated investor relations section, adhering to the new stipulation by the SCA.
Recognising the importance of risk management
Risk management is a key area of our governance systems. Our risk appetite is set by the board of directors and is reviewed on a regular basis, guided by our strategic objectives. We have a track record of adopting, embedding and sustaining risk management, as a core competency throughout the organisation, as we recognise its ability to enhance the performance of key activities and our ability to manage uncertainty.
Our risk framework is aligned to ISO 31000:2009, the global standard for risk management, a systematic, structured and timely approach to risk implemented throughout the year by the executive management team and continuously reported to the audit committee and board of directors.
We continue to implement highly sophisticated risk and whistleblowing policies in our efforts to remain a market leader in the field of transparency and accountability. The board is responsible for ensuring the establishment and effectiveness of a sound system of internal control and risk management including financial, operational and compliance controls and risk management processes.
To ensure we have the strongest leadership, our board selection processes are robust and constantly evolving to guarantee an appropriate balance of independence (one third of the board) and diversity. Alongside a certain number of board member positions, which are reserved to the majority shareholders in the articles of association, the remaining member positions are elected through a secret cumulative ballot arising from nominations received from public shareholders.
Nominations are invited by public announcement in at least two Arabic daily newspapers, reviewed by the nominations and remuneration committee of the board, and the relevant information provided by candidates is published on the du website and provided to the SCA.
Furthermore, we are committed to conducting regular and continuous board evaluation reviews. As such, the board continues its practice of conducting self-evaluations of the performance, composition and practices of the board and its committees, together with their integration with key management, control and governance functions. We are one of the first companies to utilise an external facilitator to conduct the evaluation processes. Each year the questionnaires are enhanced to reflect advancements in the governance framework and key events in the company or its operating environment, while retaining sufficient consistency to actively measure improvements against prior evaluation results. Similarly to 2012 and 2013, the annual evaluation for 2014 was facilitated by an external governance advisory firm, providing an independent and unbiased questionnaire design and analysis.
Most importantly, we have the support of all our people and suppliers in maintaining our governance standards. Our tireless commitment to improving transparency and accountability has enabled us to clearly demonstrate to our employees the benefits of these activities. As a result of this commitment, we continue to be recognised and awarded for our efforts in this area, both regionally and internationally.
About The Author:
Hanan Ahmad is an Emirati national with extensive professional experience across a number of sectors. Hanan began her career at Dubai Group in 2006 as Assistant Manager and remained in the organization for the next four years. Having undertaken a role in the Marketing team, Hanan was promoted to Compliance Manager for the group responsible for ensuring the organization met with each regulatory and industry requirement.
In 2010, Hanan moved to du to take the role of Corporate Governance & Board Relations Manager, a role which included responsibility for reviewing all governance matters relating to the firm’s activities, managing the Audit and Investment Committee of the Board and implementing a range of activities that have since established du as a market-leader in terms of best practice, accountability and transparency. Due to these achievements, in April 2012, Hanan was appointed du Company Secretary by the Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Hanan’s efforts in improving du’s corporate governance enabled the Company to be placed the first in renowned the Standard & Poor (S&P)’s 2012 Hawkamah Pan Arab ESG Index. In 2014 and 2015 du has won for Best Corporate Governance in MENA, Telecoms Industry in the MENA region for Best Corporate Governance by Ethical Boardroom. Hanan is on the Editorial Board of the Hawkamah Journal and is an Independent Director at Zayed University’s Audit Committee in 2014.
Hanan holds a BA in Business Administration from the UK.