Didier Cossin

Professor of Governance and Finance, and Founder and Director of IMD Global Board Center

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

Good governance transforms performance because it protects against downside risks such as reputational risks and integrity risks, 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
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
Financial engineering's fallout
It's time to bring morality back into finance and time for business leaders to take risk seriously, writes this expert. Finance is not an abstract mathematical theory.
Published 14 January 2009
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
Article
L'ESG doit s'adapter au retour des conflits armés
The return of war to Europe has claimed a prominent victim in the investment world: ESG, the environmental, social and governance perspective that many professionals assign to their work. Not that ...
Published 12 October 2022
Article
How to survive and thrive in a geopolitical storm
The business world has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. But chaos can bring opportunity if your board of directors is prepared for action, write Didier Cossin and Abrah...
Published 26 July 2022
Article
Inflation, un risque mal anticipé par les investisseurs
Fighting deflationary risks and keeping rates low has been the dominant paradigm for so long that very few investors had a plan B when central bankers announced the gradual end of monetary laxity. ...
Published 30 June 2022
Director diversity: What next for the boardroom?
Article
Director diversity: What next for the boardroom?
There are more women on boards than ever – but is that really the end point of our diversity push? To really gain from diversity, the boards of the future will need to expand the way they define it...
Published 31 May 2022
Article
Why ESG should really read GES 
The governance aspect of ESG is a fundamental driver of environmental and social quality. Our experts outline the methodology required to ensure board-level leadership in sustainability.
Published 17 March 2022
Article
Pour une gouvernance des investissements publics
The governance of public investment remains too neglected in France, deplore two experts in a forum at “Echoes”. The work of the Gare du Nord and the results of the Institut de France are two emble...
Published 16 November 2021
Article
The CEO’s post-pandemic survival guide: ESG targets take center stage
CEO turnover is rising after a COVID lull as boards place corporate culture and social responsibility at the heart of performance criteria, equal to shareholder value creation.
Published 9 November 2021
Article
Questions that will help you identify potential conflicts of interest on your board: Part 4
The position of your company in society is something that needs to be taken into account when you consider how to maximize shareholder value.Board directors have a moral obligation not to take adva...
Published 10 September 2021
Article
L'agilité, atout maître des gouvernants dans leur combat climatique
We are witnessing a radical change in investors' expectations regarding climate risk, write Didier Cossin and Philippe Mudry. The sacrosanct performance objective could well in the long term be rep...
Published 25 August 2021
Article
Beyond Bezos: Amazon’s prime movers face a tricky transition
Jeff Bezos will find the move from CEO to Chairman of the Board far from easy. Didier Cossin and Michael Watkins offer advice on avoiding the pitfalls. As Jeff Bezos is soon to learn, the qualities...
Published 17 June 2021
Article
Le comité d'investissement, un outil négligé par les grands groupes
Mergers and acquisitions have become increasingly structuring events for companies. Given the risk they entail and the difficulty of such transactions, it is surprising that the boards of directors...
Published 2 June 2021
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Article
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 31 May 2021
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Article
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 May 2021
Article
Retraites : pourquoi la gestion des réserves doit être repensée
At a time when pension reform could be relaunched, it is important that neglected debates finally find their conclusion, including that of the governance of the system and its corollary, the optima...
Published 10 March 2021
Article
Quelle gouvernance pour «Le Temps»?
Governance is the essential success factor for organizations. This is also true for the media. The incredible social, technological and geopolitical transformation that we are experiencing is shaki...
Published 8 December 2020
Article
Calling all board members : Ignoring social media could cost billions
Social media. Boards spend far too little time thinking about it—and many directors shy away from it—opting for more formal and structured sources of news and information. Yet social media has fund...
Published 5 August 2020
Article
Inside the boardroom: 9 mental biases that mask risk
Boards are at the heart of risk governance. By their nature, risks cannot be fully and exactly measured. The real question proficient directors should ask, therefore, concerns the board’s attitude ...
Published 22 July 2020
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 5 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 29 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
Article
Covid-19: Crash test des sociétés bien gouvernées
Governance has often been neglected because it is so difficult to quantify what is good governance. One of the only reliable and recognized measures of the quality of good governance in academic li...
Published 27 April 2020
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
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
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Article
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 19 May 2017
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Article
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 8 August 2016
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Article
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 8 August 2016
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Article
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 1 July 2016
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Article
Board at Risk
Published 2 March 2016
Article
Values can nourish society through stewardship
When it comes down to it, why does your company exist? In today’s high-stake business world, the answer to that question is often “to make money” or “to create shareholder value.” Yet such pressure...
Published 13 January 2016
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Article
Expectations that businesses should contribute to the well-being of society have never been higher. There are also an increasing number of different types of firms with various ownership systems: s...
Published 2 September 2015
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Article
A thriving onboarding process is built on a clear def. of what constitute an “ideal” board to the firm and the use of the desired profile of new directors
Published 31 July 2015
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Article
With even the best CEOs being overstretched, boards have become essential to companies' strategic success. Unfortunately, most boards are confused about their strategic role and are failing to add ...
Published 5 February 2015
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Article
Does Your Board Really Add Value to Strategy?
Published 20 January 2014
Article
La gouvernance moderne se doit d'ĂŞtre conflictuelle
Deux navires qui coulent. Kodak et BlackBerry s'enfoncent actuellement dans une débâcle financière, suite à de graves manquements dans leur gouvernance. On ne peut plus gérer un conseil d'administr...
Published 30 August 2013
Article
Plaidoyer pour un renouveu Ă©conomique
Pour renaître, l'Europe doit abaisser ses coûts, améliorer sa productivité et renouveler sa créativité. L'énergie y coûte cher. Pis, l'Europe n'a pas de vraie politique énergétique. De plus, la gou...
Published 2 April 2013
Article
Voter Minder ou ne pas voter Minder
Très vite, lorsque l'on aborde les votationsde mars, l'initiative Minder est au coeur des discussions.¦Premiers déboires politiques,positions tranchées, bref, le ton monte. Pourtant, pour la plupar...
Published 5 February 2013
Article
Réglementation bancaire, échec assuré?
Plus de 25 000 pages de normes de réglementations bancaires. De quoi occuper les esprits, mais de quoi les garder sains? Assurer la stabilité du système financier est l'objectif clé d'une bonne rég...
Published 27 November 2012
Article
De la mesure du bonheur
Pourquoi ne pas imiter Indiens et Chinois, qui, peu sûrs¦de leur avenir, investissent dans la voie royale vers le bien-être et la richesse: l'éducation?¦
Published 2 October 2012
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Article
The research trends on corporate governance and boards suggest that the board today must be active and engaged to be relevant in the changing, global world. This contrasts with the historic, agency...
Published 11 September 2012
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Article
The specificity of a family business is the “family.” As Bernard Firmenich, eBusiness Director and member of the founding family of Firmenich, IMD-Lombard Odier Global Family Business Award winner ...
Published 26 July 2012
Article
Le glas de la forteresse Europe a-t-il sonné?
Published 19 June 2012
Article
La Suisse doit-elle avoir peur de François Hollande?
La vision de la France est pleine de préjugés contre la «riche» Suisse, affirme le professeur à l’IMD à Lausanne. Si cette peur est saine et nous prépare à affronter les menaces bien réelles liées ...
Published 9 May 2012
Article
Et si l'avenir des jeunes était derrière nous?
Published 24 April 2012
Article
Les Ă©lections, les Ă©lections...
Published 28 February 2012
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Article
Most corporate boards are failing. I'm not only referring to the spectacular failures at Olympus, Yahoo or BP; most boards are not adding the value they could to corporations because they are not b...
Published 8 February 2012
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
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Article
Most board members see themselves as being beyond education. They are successful and seasoned personalities with a great deal of experience, often having been a chief executive or having held other...
Published 1 January 2000
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Article
Corporate events in the last decade have made it clear that boards can fail. Failure has come in various disguises: failure to manage risks, to proactively contribute to firm strategy, to identify ...
Published 1 January 2000
Improving and Energizing your Governance