Didier Cossin

Professor of Governance and Finance

Didier Cossin is Professor of Governance and Finance. He works with owners, boards, and senior leaders to help them improve organizational performance through best-in-class governance and decision making. At IMD, he is the Founder and Director of the IMD Global Board Center and holds the UBS Chair in Banking and Finance.

Cossin is the originator of the Four Pillars of Board Effectiveness methodology and an advocate of stewardship – the idea that leaders should aim to deliver positive long-term social and economic impact.

He is also focused on the governance of investments, including how ESG can be integrated in the investment process all the way through to asset allocations and not only in asset selection and engagement. Good governance transforms performance because it protects against downside risks, such as reputational risks and integrity risks, he says, and helps organizations to adapt, which creates upside opportunities.

The IMD Global Board Center aims to support long-term organizational success through a strong board and brings together world-class thought leadership and global best practices to help boards reach their full potential.

Cossin and his team work on real-world issues for boards to improve their performance and carry out their strategic role in the company’s success. The Center supports board members by providing unique and pertinent resources and tools to address current boardroom issues such as risk and opportunity optimization, investment selection, and strategy design, and works with boards to help improve board dynamics and effectiveness.

The Center also offers a combination of open enrollment and custom programs aimed at empowering board members and enhancing board performance, and Cossin is Director of its High Performance Boards program, Board Practice Series (BPS), and Board Director Diploma.

Cossin defines governance as the art of decision making at the top of organizations and says better-governed companies outperform their peers because they are better protected against downside risks and more agile and able to profit from upside opportunities.

He favors an adaptive and interactive approach to find distinctive solutions for organizations based on the social, geopolitical, technological, and economic transformations in different regions of the world. Corporate boards, he says, also need to factor in geopolitical risks, social evolution, and the long-term instability of the world, which is something they often do not give sufficient thought to.

His clinical work has enabled him to identify a number of essential elements for successful governance, which he calls the Four Pillars of Board Effectiveness. These are:

  • People quality, diversity, focus, and dedication
  • Information architecture – internal and external, formal and informal
  • Structures and processes
  • Group dynamics and board culture

 

Cossin has worked as an advisor and executive teacher to supranational organizations (United Nations, European Central Bank, World Bank, IFC, International Olympic Committee) and sovereign wealth funds and state investors (PIF in Saudi Arabia, ADQ in Abu Dhabi, Temasek in Singapore), as well as ministries, central banks, wealthy families, and the boards or executive committees of corporations, financial institutions, and funds in Europe, Asia, the Americas, Africa, and the Middle East. He also advises non-profit organizations such as the Red Cross and IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature) on governance. He is currently Senior Advisor in Governance to UNICEF and to the International Organization for Standardization.

He is the author of two books on governance (Inspiring Stewardship and High Performance Boards) and has published articles in leading journals such as Management Science, the Journal of Banking and Finance, the Journal of Computational Finance, and MIT Sloan Management Review. He is also a columnist for CEOWORLD magazine.

Cossin is President of the Stewardship Institute, whose goal is to support projects with positive social impact through ESG research and advocacy, and Chairman of BERG Capital Management, which manages investment processes for large asset owners using governance principles. He is also a member of the American Finance Association, the Eastern Finance Association, and the European Finance Association.

Before joining IMD, he was Professor of Finance at HEC Lausanne. He previously taught at Harvard University, where he obtained two Derek Bok Awards for excellence in teaching and was a visiting professor at the University of California and INSEAD.

Selected publications
Book
High performance boards : Improving and energizing your governance
A comprehensive guide to transforming boards and achieving best-practice governance in any organisation. When practising good governance, the board is the vital driver of organizational success, wh...
Published 13 May 2020
Book
Inspiring stewardship
Inspiring Stewardship helps leaders drive sustainable development and growth by balancing short- and long-term objectives amidst competing interests. By examining a range of exceptional individual ...
Published 31 May 2016
Article
How to reconcile your shareholders with other stakeholders
Identify which stakeholders will create long-term value for shareholders — and avoid the value-destroying traps associated with others. In this article, we look at the five traps and describe how l...
Published 13 July 2020
Article
Credit risk in a network economy
The authors develop a structural model of credit risk in a network economy, where any firm can lend to any other firm, so that each firm is subject to counterparty risk either from direct borrowers...
Published 1 October 2007
Improving and Energizing your Governance
High Performance Boards
Programs
On campus
Orchestrating Winning Performance

Reset for sustainable and inclusive growth

IMD's signature program, OWP, brings you the latest business trends, thought leadership and insights to revitalize your business, drive innovation and lead you forward. Fully customizable schedule. For executives and teams.

Location: Lausanne Length: 5 days Fee: CHF 10,900 Next start: 26 June 2023
On campus
High Performance Boards

How board directors make a real difference

Inspired by the latest research and drawing on more than 40 years of board education experience, High Performance Boards examines issues related to supervisory board performance and effectiveness.

Location: Lausanne Length: 3 days Fee: CHF 12,500 Next start: 28 November 2022
Academic publications
Book
High performance boards : Improving and energizing your governance
A comprehensive guide to transforming boards and achieving best-practice governance in any organisation. When practising good governance, the board is the vital driver of organizational success, wh...
Published 13 May 2020
Article
A theoretical argument why the t-copula explains credit risk contagion better than the Gaussian copula
One of the key questions in credit dependence modelling is the specfication of the copula function linking the marginals of default variables. Copulae functions are important because they allow to ...
Published 1 January 2010
Article
Credit risk in a network economy
The authors develop a structural model of credit risk in a network economy, where any firm can lend to any other firm, so that each firm is subject to counterparty risk either from direct borrowers...
Published 1 October 2007
Article
Swap credit risk: An empirical investigation on transaction data
Currency and interest rate swaps are subject to a complex, two-sided default risk. Although several theoretical papers have recently addressed the problem of pricing swap credit risk, the empirical...
Published 1 October 1997
Insight for Executives
Credit Suisse: Lackadaisical about risk
Case Study
Credit Suisse: Lackadaisical about risk
When Archegos, a low-profile family office, lost money on its holding of ViacomCBS shares in March 2021, it faced margin calls it could not meet, forcing it to unwind its positions. Banks with $50 ...
Published 11 April 2022
Commonwealth Bank of Australia: Accommodating ATMs
Case Study
Commonwealth Bank of Australia: Accommodating ATMs
When Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) installed intelligent deposit machines (IDMs) it did so to make banking more convenient and save time for customers. Cash deposited was counted automatical...
Published 11 April 2022
Wells Fargo: When eight wasn't great
Case Study
Wells Fargo: When eight wasn't great
When former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf pushed his employees to sell eight Wells Fargo products per customer through cross-selling – he no doubt assumed it would be done with customers’ consent. In...
Published 10 April 2022
Barclays: Culture is more than just a word
Case Study
Barclays: Culture is more than just a word
During the financial crisis of 2007-2008, Barclays manipulated LIBOR down by submitting artificially low rates to make itself look less risky. Traders also manipulated the rate for personal gain. T...
Published 10 April 2022
Board Oversight of Geopolitical Risks and Opportunities
Article
Board Oversight of Geopolitical Risks and Opportunities
Geopolitics is “the study of the effects of Earth’s geography (human and physical) on politics and international relations.” Geopolitical risk refers to situations involving power struggles such a...
Published 30 May 2021
Board Oversight of Cyber Risks and Cybersecurity
Article
Board Oversight of Cyber Risks and Cybersecurity
Conflicts of interest abound at the board level. They constitute a significant issue in that they affect ethics by distorting decision making and generating consequences that can undermine the cred...
Published 30 April 2021
Article
How to reconcile your shareholders with other stakeholders
Identify which stakeholders will create long-term value for shareholders — and avoid the value-destroying traps associated with others. In this article, we look at the five traps and describe how l...
Published 13 July 2020
High Performance Boards Conversation Series
Video
High Performance Boards Conversation Series
Video series with Professor Didier Cossin and guests on governance principles.
Published 4 June 2020
How to govern investments during regime shifts
Article
How to govern investments during regime shifts
How to govern investments during regime shifts by Professor Didier Cossin and Elisabeth Bourqui
Published 3 June 2020
The Good Governance Crash Test: Covid 19
Article
The Good Governance Crash Test: Covid 19
We are in a world of regime shifts: pandemics; trillions of debt; the climate crisis; social, technological and political transformations – all indicative of a different future for the world and fo...
Published 1 June 2020
Best-in-class boards and post-COVID-19 governance
Video
Best-in-class boards and post-COVID-19 governance
Webinar by Didier Cossin on Best-in-class boards and post-COVID-19 governance
Published 28 May 2020
High Performance Boards
Book
High Performance Boards
A comprehensive guide to transforming boards and achieving best-practice governance in any organisation. When practising good governance, the board is the vital driver of organizational success, w...
Published 13 May 2020
Report
Governance of investments during regime shifts: The four core principles
We are in a world of regime shifts: pandemics; trillions of debt; the climate crisis; social, technological and political transformations – all indicative of a different future for the world and fo...
Published 30 April 2020
Governance of investments during regime shifts: the four core principles
Article
Governance of investments during regime shifts: the four core principles
We are in a world of regime shifts: pandemics; trillions of debt; the climate crisis; social, technological and political transformations – all indicative of a different future for the world and fo...
Published 29 April 2020
3 key challenges to central bank governance – and how they are reshaping the global economy
Article
3 key challenges to central bank governance – and how they are reshaping the global economy
This article explores the evolution of the quality of governance in central banks in detail.
Published 12 February 2020
The Delta-Emirates audit committee depreciation game
Case Study
The Delta-Emirates audit committee depreciation game
A friend, who is a board member of Emirates Group (Emirates), tells you about a heated exchange in her board room about Emirates planes depreciation. Your friend asks you for your advice as you hav...
Published 28 November 2019
Article
Becoming a chairman
The move from CEO to Chairman is a major role shift. Success requires a set of leadership qualities which few CEOs have exercised in their previous roles. In this article, the authors elaborate on ...
Published 1 May 2018
Downfall Deutsche Bank
Case Study
Downfall Deutsche Bank
The case looks at the leadership, governance, board, strategy and other issues that led up to the downfall of Deutsche Bank. It discusses the ideological shift from stakeholder value harmonization ...
Published 15 October 2017
Article
Boards and stewardship: The evolution from mechanical governance to value-based governance as a challenge to GAFAs
Are failed boards structured significantly differently? Board structures are more or less the same in any regulatory environment – the mechanism of governance that relates to gender diversity, boar...
Published 1 October 2017
Article
Boards and crisis: Being prepared for major risks
Risk management used to be reserved for the back office and risk reports used to put board members to sleep. Not anymore. The confusion and the impact of risk has increased dramatically, and those ...
Published 1 September 2017
Article
An M&A oversight framework for boards
Global mergers & acquisitions (M&A) reached an all-time high in 2015, surpassing the previous record set in 2007. The $4.28 trillion worth of deals exceeded those of 2014 by more than $1 trillion a...
Published 1 August 2017
Article
The conflict of interest faced by board directors
Conflicts of interest abound at the board level. They constitute a significant issue in that they affect ethics by distorting decision making and generating consequences that can undermine the cred...
Published 1 July 2017
The four tiers of conflict of interest faced by board directors
Article
The four tiers of conflict of interest faced by board directors
Conflicts of interest abound at the board level. They constitute a significant issue in that they affect ethics by distorting decision making and generating consequences that can undermine the cred...
Published 18 May 2017
An M&A Oversight Framework for Boards
Article
An M&A Oversight Framework for Boards
Global M&As reached an all-time high in 2015, surpassing the previous record set in 2007. The $4.28 trillion worth of deals exceeded those of 2014 by more than $1 trillion.[i] Today, companies are ...
Published 25 March 2017
A note on Finance Essentials for Directors
Article
A note on Finance Essentials for Directors
Companies around the globe have been working to create high-performance boards made up of directors with diverse backgrounds, not necessarily in finance. However, since accounting and finance drive...
Published 7 August 2016
A Board Member Guide to Risk Practices
Article
A Board Member Guide to Risk Practices
Companies around the globe have been working to create high-performance boards made up of directors with diverse backgrounds, not necessarily in finance. However, since accounting and finance drive...
Published 7 August 2016
Brexit signals a rift between the elite and the rest of the population
Article
Brexit signals a rift between the elite and the rest of the population
I am quite pessimistic. It shows that there is an incredible rift between elites and the general population. I think Prime Minister David Cameron was irresponsible and put his country in a situatio...
Published 30 June 2016
Report
Do major financial crises provide information on sovereign risk to the rest of the world? a look at credit default swap markets
The financial innovations of the late 1990s have led to the emergence of a significant number of new instruments, in particular in the market for hedging credit risk. This paper, based on an origin...
Published 1 March 2005
Report
Are European corporate bond and default swap markets segmented?
Market prices of corporate bond spreads and of credit default swap (CDS) rates do not match each other. In this paper, the authors argue that the liquidity premium, the cheapest-to-deliver (CTD) op...
Published 1 March 2005
Report
Understanding the economic value of legal covenants in investment contracts: A real-options approach to venture equity contracts
Valuing early-stage high-technology growth-oriented companies is a challenge to current valuation methodologies. This inability to come up with robust point estimates of value should not and does n...
Published 1 October 2002