As you will soon discover, I have a tendency to use metaphors. I find this is essential when discussing the taboo that is fund governance.
In its broadest sense, it encompasses all activities involving compliance, custody, regulation, risk, ESG, due diligence and investor outcomes.
Fund governance goes to the heart of the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) 2017 Asset Management Market Study (AMMS) and affords a broad palette to muse upon.
In turn, a non-executive director (NED), according to the Institute of Directors, is there to "provide a creative contribution to the board by providing independent oversight and constructive challenge to the executive directors".
First recommended back in the Cadbury report of 1992, the FCA piggybacked PS18/8 - its 'remedies' in the wake of its AMMS - by adding the interests of fundholders and to assess value delivery.
Yet, once CF2 approved, the vast majority of NEDs now reside outside of the Senior Managers regime (SMCR). Duties under the Companies Act 2006 now subordinate the FCA's rules for NEDs. NEDs must persevere to manage that potential conflict.
From the board to fair value and liquidity committees and investment advisory committees, you get involved in a broad number of conversations. I have long viewed fund governance as nigh on a vocational calling.
My definitive article on the assessment of value (AoV), The Maginot Line, co-written with Sunil Chadda, was a 27,000-word bunker of technical insights and mapped minefields.
More simply, the AoV lies in seven considerations: quality of service, performance, costs, economies of scale, market rates, comparable services and unitholder classes.
A number of AoV disclosures have been published, of varying quality. Sins have included a lack of fund or share class-level detail; single-line assessment outcomes and standardised oblique wording; snapshot performance comparisons with no sense of persistency; frequent use of jargon and discussing at-length peripheral issues; and inconsistent comparisons with non-primary benchmarks or peer groups.
There have also been composite assessments that group considerations with little transparency, the use of unqualified and unsubstantiated wording such as "consistently" and "majority", and amorphous references to "the Board".
There is also no iNED presence, and a complete absence from disclosures.
The devil is in the detail. Poor attempts will serve their penance in the media. The importance of the NED, in some ways, has been taken as a matter of faith. Our mere apparition conveying a halo of good governance.
However it is what we do, not who we are, that matters most to fund outcomes.