After cofounding Women Cyber Force and racking up over two decades of IT experience, Najia Belbal has recently taken up a new post: education, events and IT executive at the Luxembourg Institute of Directors (ILA).
The ILA is non-profit that promotes directors and corporate governance in Luxembourg, in large part via its training offer.
“A boardroom with a good governance is definitively the best place to make a positive impact,” says Belbal in an interview with Delano, “by addressing several challenges like ESG, new technology, those kinds of things.”
Belbal has been active in the fields of IT governance, cybersecurity, ethics and digitalisation, serving or having served on various advisory boards as well as Association of the Luxembourg Fund Industry (Alfi) and ILA working groups, notably (since 2019) co-chairing the ILA’s digital committee. She is also a non-executive director of The Digital Board, and in 2020 cofounded both fintech company Ticked.ai and non-profit Women Cyber Force.
Heading into her new role, Belbal shared with us three areas she is looking forward to (further) developing at the ILA.
The first area is startups, where governance, she suggests, can be a major factor in success. “The market shows that startups with good governance are doing really well,” she comments. “They’re outperforming startups who have no governance at all.”
However, she continues, many startup founders overlook governance, being focused from the outset on more immediate challenges like getting their idea off the ground. Then they grow and run into issues: “Suddenly… you want to reach out to new customers who will ask: how are you doing with your governance? And sometimes it’s too late, because you didn’t think about it at the beginning.”
An ILA working group dedicated to startups is currently tackling this precise problem. Namely, early in 2024 “several events” will be launched to better connect startup founders with experienced directors and vice versa. The training needs are mutual: “Experienced directors need to be trained to understand how to advise startups,” comments Belbal. “And the startups also need to be trained to have good governance depending on which stage they are in.”
Another area is the ILA’s recently launched governance desk, a platform where ILA members can ask questions and receive answers. Belbal says that the ILA are not acting as advisors, but can nevertheless share experiences and help. “We look forward to growing it,” she says of the desk.
The third area Belbal wants to develop is the ILA’s bespoke training offer, where it visits organisations to deliver training sessions dedicated to specific issues faced by that organisation. “It can be AML/KYC, it can be the duties of directors--there are a lot of AIFMs [alternate investment fund managers] who come from outside Luxembourg who want some insights,” she explains.
More broadly, she adds: “The idea is to address their challenges and be in touch with experts on specific issues.”
This article was published for the Delano Finance newsletter, the weekly source for financial news in Luxembourg. Subscribe using this link.