The corporate governance landscape continues to evolve in meaningful ways. We may be entering an era of more nuanced corporate governance debates, where the focus has shifted from check-the-box policies to more complex questions such as how to strike the right balance in recruiting directors with complementary skill sets and diverse perspectives, and how to tailor the board’s role in overseeing risk management to the specific needs of the company.

Shareholder engagement has been an area of particular focus, as both companies and institutional investors have sought to engage in more regular dialogue on corporate governance matters. Importantly, this trend is about more than just expanding shareholder influence in corporate governance matters; instead, there is an emphasis on the roles and responsibilities of both companies and shareholders in facilitating thoughtful conversations instead of reflexive, off-the-shelf mandates on corporate governance issues, and cultivating long-term relationships that have the potential to curb short-termist pressures in the market.

The governance activism plateau is serving as a convenient stepping stone for economic activists. While boards should be prepared to defend against such attacks, they should not let the threat of an attack undermine the company’s ultimate objective of creating sustainable, long-term value. A carefully crafted strategic plan can carry the day in a proxy fight, as illustrated by the decisive victories of incumbent boards in proxy contests at AOL, Target, Clorox and many other companies.

In today’s environment, boards need to embrace a mindset and tone at the top that is proactive, confident and bold. Boards should reassess their playbook on key priorities, including long-term strategy, CEO succession planning and risk management, with a view to pressure testing it for vulnerabilities in the current environment. They should be proactive not only in reviewing their strategies and plans, but also in communicating these initiatives to shareholders and other market participants.

This 2-day Symposium highlighted a few of the more significant issues and trends that directors should bear in mind as they consider their companies’ priorities and objectives and seek to optimize governance structures and procedures. Topics includes Executive Compensation, Proxy Access – 2014 Outlook, Future-Proofing the Board & CEO’s Succession Planning, Company Secretaries as Governance Champions, Tax Reforms & Governance Issues: The Case of GST, Shareholder Director Exchange, Responsible Investing in Environment Social and Governance, Corruption/Bribery/Fraud: Are We Beating A Dead Horse?   and addressing Cybersecurity Risk.