We look back at the company’s birth and evolution, and explore the secrets of staying power in the ever-changing board portal provider market.
How has the board portal landscape changed over the last decade?
It’s quite telling that when the VirtualBoardroom team attended their first Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA) conference in 2008, there was one board portal provider exhibiting. At the 2018 conference, there were nine.
Adoption of technology – and an increasing desire for online board packs from organisations of all types and sizes – has fuelled exponential growth in the board portal market.
How do portal providers keep their solutions relevant in this fast-changing market?
- They must invest in the latest solutions, to ensure that their product evolves continuously to meet client requirements around access, production and security
- They need to make sure that their portal addresses the needs of administrators as well as end users
- They have to transition new users seamlessly
- And perhaps most importantly, companies that endure deliver a service that lives up to their technology promises
But we are getting ahead of ourselves…How did VirtualBoardroom start on its 10-year journey to become ‘the board portal of choice’?
2006 – a changing landscape for business
The story actually starts more than 10 years ago, in 2006 – an exceptional year for the City of London and the London Stock Exchange.
A record 367 companies of all shapes and sizes and from all corners of the world were floated on either the Stock Exchange’s main market or the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in 2006.
Having floated, these companies were required to produce annual reports. And as Perivan’s financial print division had produced around a third of the admission prospectuses during the year, we had built excellent relationships with the stock market’s newest arrivals.
A large number of the new companies were registered in the Channel Islands, with their administration managed by local corporate service providers and fund administrators.
The Perivan team therefore decided to visit Guernsey in March 2007 to meet with some of these administrators and discuss our annual report production capabilities.
A demand for better board packs
At our very first meeting, with a fund administration company, we were asked not just about annual reports, but whether we could help them with their board pack compilation, production and distribution.
As with all corporate service providers, the fund administrator’s company secretarial department acted for multiple companies who have regular board meetings.
We were shown an example board pack, which was about two inches thick, comb-bound and with cardboard dividers.
The production process was very long and laborious, with hard copies of each report printed out, laid out on a boardroom table and hand collated. Cardboard tabs were then inserted between each report and the papers were bound.
The administrators had to deal with papers being submitted late, disrupting the production schedule. Last-minute changes were another common problem, often resulting in pages needing to be thrown away and replaced with new versions.
All of this wasted not only paper and ink but also huge amounts of time.
Once published, hard copy papers were couriered to boards of directors. They were frequently overseas, and regular issues with fog in Guernsey meant delays in receiving papers were common. Added to this, the inherent lack of security in delivering hard copies of business-confidential material created an unnecessary business risk.
When we spoke to numerous other corporate service providers, all of whom who experienced the same problems, we realised something had to change.
We explained that we had previously been asked if we could automate the whole board pack production process – something they all jumped at as a possible remedy.
The birth of VirtualBoardroom
When the team returned to London, we set about conducting market research to refine the idea.
We emailed all our corporate service provider contacts to as what they would want from the platform – and partnered with software specialists Electrum Multimedia in Edinburgh to turn our requirements into reality.
An internal team was built by transferring customer service guru Dan Gaydon from the typesetting team and taking on Graham Bowstead – both of whom are still with the business today.
With the VirtualBoardroom® name registered, it was time to test the solution. Several of the corporate service providers in Guernsey beta tested the software and gave us feedback that enabled us to fine-tune it.
Launch and expansion
VirtualBoardroom was launched on 24th June 2008. It was instantly bought by many of the fund administrators in Guernsey. The offering was then expanded to cover Jersey, the Isle of Man, Dublin and Luxembourg.
Although it was public listed companies that sparked the initial idea for VirtualBoardroom, we quickly realised that any organisation that required corporate governance would benefit from the portal, including quoted companies, private companies, NHS trusts, housing associations, the education sector and charities.
At the height of its hard-copy production, VirtualBoardroom saw 1.5 million board pack pages printed per year.
Then the iPad launched in April 2010 and transformed the landscape. Today, the majority of VirtualBoardroom’s clients make use of iPad access – with the ability to choose between hard or soft copy and online or offline access one of VirtualBoardroom’s significant benefits.
In 2014, Perivan acquired Electrum Multimedia to make our software development part of the Perivan family.
The board portal of choice, ten years on
Today, VirtualBoardroom remains the portal of choice for clients ranging from housing associations to building societies.
"VirtualBoardroom allows us to produce our board papers in a much more efficient way. It is quick and easy to publish large board packs, which are professional in appearance, and the system is good value for money," Claire Payne, Executive PA, Merthyr Valleys Homes.
If you want to see why it remains such a popular option, you can download a sample board pack. You can also read our Board Portal FAQs to find out more about why portals are increasingly the preferred way to deliver board packs.