Change, oversight, and leadership: What’s on my agenda in 2021

Maria Castañón Moats Governance Insights Center Leader, PwC US January 27, 2021

The start of a new year is always a time of new beginnings, and 2021 is no exception. We can all be proud of how we endured all that 2020 unexpectedly brought our way and now I am looking forward to the great changes that are underway for our society and our economy. It’s also a period of transition for PwC’s Governance Insights Center. I’m honored to have the opportunity to be its new leader beginning February 1.

With all the challenges and opportunities facing boards today, our group’s work has never felt more essential. I hope you’ll join me and all of the Governance Insights Center partners and staff in recognizing Paula Loop, who is retiring from the firm, for the vision, expertise, and wisdom she has shown while leading the group over the past five years. She has been a strong advocate for good corporate governance and a source of wisdom and guidance for many boards. I would also like to personally thank Paula for her valuable counsel as I navigated career decisions.

From my perspective, the chance to take on this role could not have come at a more exciting time. We have a new president, whose administration’s legislative and regulatory priorities will likely stand in stark contrast to his predecessor. Additionally, the events of 2020 have intensified the focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) matters. As the daughter of immigrants and an immigrant myself, the “S” in ESG has always been very important to me. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the outcry for racial justice likely to have long-lasting implications for our country, social issues are a good bet to be high on boards’ agendas in 2021 and beyond.

As an auditor and a leader, I’ve always been very focused on risk—identifying it, managing it, and mitigating it. The big changes now unfolding present businesses with some new and unfamiliar risks, and I believe boards have a critical role to play in helping their companies navigate them. Directors need to not just spot the risks around the corner, but to guide and support management teams as they confront them.

This opportunity to assist boards as they fulfill this responsibility feels like a natural next step as I look at the progression of my 25-year career at PwC. In my time as a partner at this firm, I’ve led its assurance line of service and served as its Chief Diversity Officer. The big conversations between executives and boards about the purpose of the corporation and its obligations to its stakeholders aren’t academic to me—I’ve spent my career in the rooms where they happen.  

I firmly believe that being a good leader means bringing your whole self to your duties. We are not simply the sum of the parts of our resumes—and that’s as true for CEOs and directors as it is for me. I am a proud mother of two great kids, a Texan, and a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan. Taken together, it all helps me stay focused on my purpose and keep perspective on the peaks and valleys of life. (My Peloton also helps with this, although I’m an average performer if I’m being honest).

In this time of change, it’s my honor to be able to help boards and the companies they oversee to achieve their full potential. I can’t wait to meet each one of you, virtually via one of the many platforms that we all have, of necessity, mastered, or in person once we are all safe to do so. Here’s to the start of a new year and may we all continue to rise to the challenges we face this year and beyond.