Individualism and Venture Capital : A Cross-Country Study
2019-10, Gantenbein, Pascal, Kind, Axel, Volonté, Christophe
We investigate the effect of individualism—a dimension of culture that is strongly associated with entrepreneurship—on venture-capital investments using a large cross-country sample. Our sample consists of 1496 country-year observations and includes 88 countries from 1998 to 2014. Controlling for economic conditions, the legal environment, and different aspects of culture, we find that individualism is positively and significantly related to venture-capital investments and explains 30% of cross-country variation. This result is stable across different subsamples, several measures of venture-capital investments, and even holds when using the political system 200 years ago as an instrument for individualism. The quality of formal institutions (rule of law) and entrepreneurial attitudes (uncertainty avoidance) partially mediate the effect of individualism on venture-capital investments, while economic conditions (GDP per capita) moderate this effect.
Boards : Independent and committed directors?
2015, Volonté, Christophe
Regulators, proxy advisors and shareholders are regularly calling for independent directors. However, at the same time, independent directors commonly engage in numerous outside activities potentially reducing their time and commitment with the particular firm. Using Tobin's Q as an approximation of market valuation and controlling for endogeneity, our empirical analysis reveals that neither is independence positively related to firm performance nor are outside activities negatively related to it. Nevertheless, we find that — non-independent — executive directors, former executives and family representatives have a positive relationship with Tobin's Q. Conversely, — independent — outside executives are negatively related with firm valuation. Moreover, the study indicates that the frequency and duration of meetings are negatively affected by the fraction of executive directors on the board. Insiders potentially reduce the need for meetings because of their specialist competence. The results therefore invalidate rules advocating independent directors and oppose the engagement of directors with significant outside activities.
2018, Kind, Axel, Volonté, Christophe
We study the influence of locally-rooted directors, i.e., board members with personal ties to a company’s geographic location, on firm performance. Locally-rooted directors may be elected for two contrasting reasons. First, they may provide important local know-how and business relations that can prove beneficial to a company. Second, they may be elected solely because of social ties with company insiders, such as fellow board directors, top executives, or large shareholders. In the latter case, locally-rooted directors may lack both relevant experience, business skills, and independence. We use the directors’ alma mater as a proxy for local roots. Almost 30% of all directors in our sample are locally-rooted. The empirical analysis indicates that locally-rooted directors are negatively related with Tobin’s Q, which suggests that they are chosen due to their social ties with insiders rather than because they add local business know-how. However, the negative relationship with Tobin’s Q is not present in domestically-oriented companies, i.e., firms without material foreign sales, and firms in regulated industries. Thus, the results do not rule out that, in some cases, the presence locally-rooted directors may be optimal.
Culture and Corporate Governance : The Influence of Language and Religion in Switzerland
2015, Volonté, Christophe
We investigate the effect of culture on corporate governance using the extraordinary opportunity that the corporate landscape of Switzerland provides. Within a single institutional framework (e.g., Swiss federal corporate law), we use language (German and French) and religion (Roman Catholicism and Protestantism) as proxies for culture. These groups share a distinct set of values particularly in their tolerance for hierarchical structures. We observe that firms in Swiss–French areas and firms in Roman Catholic cantons are more likely to have one-tier boards, whereas two-tier boards are more prevalent in Swiss–German areas and Protestant cantons. Furthermore, board composition is significantly driven by language. In contrast, ownership and equity structure are not significantly related to culture.
Directors' human capital, firm strategy, and firm performance
2016-03, Volonté, Christophe, Gantenbein, Pascal
Ideally, corporations are directed by boards whose directors provide valuable human capital that match the firms’ strategy. We investigate how directors’ human capital (international experience, industrial know-how, CEO experience, and financial know-how) affects firm performance including the firm’s strategy (diversification and internationalization) and how human capital is related to acquisition strategies (non-diversifying and international acquisitions). Our sample consists of 560 firm-year observations in Switzerland. We find empirical evidence that directors’ human capital affects firm performance and that this relationship depends on the firm’s strategy. Furthermore, human capital is also correlated with acquisition strategy. The study shows that focusing on board independence and compliance issues may be unrewarding in board research and practice.