An impressive start
Two years ago Alvin Huntspon was a newcomer to corporate governance. In 2013 Loretta Cecil recruited him as her right hand in the technology solutions law department at McKesson Corp, which Huntspon had joined eight months earlier as part of the global privacy and employment pay groups. After a devastating 22 percent say-on-pay vote, McKesson appointed Cecil as senior vice president of governance relations, heading a new department created to jump-start the company’s shareholder engagement efforts.
She brought Huntspon and one other person with her to tackle what promised to be a monumental task: outreach to McKesson’s top shareholders, working with the board and senior management to overhaul the executive pay plan based on investor feedback and winning back shareholders’ support on the say-on-pay vote scheduled for July 2014. ‘None of us were familiar with the governance arena and we had to quickly learn,’ Huntspon says. ‘We had six months to get up to speed and out on the road.’
The first trip was to San Francisco to be briefed by the former corporate secretary, chief securities counsel and general counsel on what lay ahead. After creating the investor outreach strategy, it was off to meet with investors: Cecil hit the road with the lead independent director while Huntspon accompanied the then-chair of the compensation committee. ‘It was a lot of long nights and long weekends – a heavy undertaking and tough experience, but rewarding nonetheless. That was the experience of a lifetime,’ Huntspon says.
After a whirlwind effort, during which McKesson’s board incorporated most of the investor feedback collected in a new compensation plan, the say-on-pay plan garnered 95 percent approval from shareholders.
Shareholder engagement may be new to him, but Huntspon unknowingly began preparing for it more than 10 years ago while attending college near Salinas, California. Based on his successful outreach to juvenile detention centers, a Christian nonprofit called Young Life recruited him to reach out to local at-risk youths. After Huntspon had built the engagement program from nothing to where it was contacting a record number of kids every week, Young Life’s director, Billy Coleman, introduced Huntspon to the board.
For the rising star, the judges recognized how Huntspon has become the face of McKesson at most of the governance conferences, staying in touch with investors and bringing back reports to keep Cecil and the board apprised of recent developments in the field.
‘You earn the right to be heard by your consistency and by building those relationships,’ Huntspon says. ‘You don’t build it by being inconsistent or engaging only in crisis mode.’