Dr. Kathleen Farrell, Chair of the Department of Finance and State Farm Professor of Finance at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Administration, serves on the corporate boards of both Assurity, Inc. and Nelnet. She believes her leadership on the boards expands opportunities for UNL, CBA and the companies she serves.
At Nelnet, an educational financial services company, Farrell is a member of the audit committee which provides primary oversight of the financial aspects of the company. This includes hiring of independent auditors and overseeing the internal audit. She also chairs the risk and finance committee and serves on the compliance committee which provides oversight of Nelnet’s compliance with state and federal regulations.
“Serving as a director is a high level oversight role,” she said. “The board approves significant investments to support growth–both through acquisition and organic growth opportunities.”
For the insurance company Assurity, she serves on their compensation committee.
“We set criteria for compensation for top management and review benchmarks used in the compensation plan,” she said.
In addition, she is a member of its nominating and corporate governance committee, and will serve as chairman in the coming year.
“Corporate governance is my area of research. It establishes how we manage best practices and set the tone by defining mission and goals. A lot is determined through the way we govern and perform oversight.”
Farrell believes the value she brings to these boards reflects her research in corporate governance issues, her work experience as a CPA and her Ph.D. in finance. In turn, she believes CBA and her students benefit from her board positions.
“For me, it helps inform my research when I observe how top managers approach decision making. I also bring what I learn to the classes I teach, with real world examples to help students better understand financial concepts and problems.”
Because the two companies are uniquely structured and the board composition differs, Farrell’s contributions vary with each organization. Nelnet is a publicly traded company so she is elected to the board by the shareholders on their behalf, whereas Assurity is mutually owned and she represents the mutual owners. In both cases, her interactions with others are critical to helping business students.
“I interact directly with business leaders, alumni and supporters. They provide time in various capacities including serving as our guest speakers and on advisory boards for CBA,” she said.