HPE’s Jon White: Always thinking ahead
One of the Corporate Secretary judges describes Jon White, corporate and securities counsel at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), as ‘someone who is clearly always thinking about how to move the ball forward’.
An excellent example of that came in September 2019, when White proposed an innovative way for colleagues in HPE’s legal team around the world to collaborate ‘face to face’ via virtual reality (VR) platforms. Not only is VR a new way of working, it has also become even more valuable as the team has faced remote working due to the Covid-19 pandemic and is seen as a way to help collaboration, communication and workplace efficiency.
White led the team that developed the concept and tested various VR applications, and he now heads up the legal department’s VR program. The technology has had uses not only in terms of meetings but also for deal rooms, training, innovation workshops and mock trials.
White joined HPE’s legal function as the company completed its spin-off from Hewlett-Packard, then spun off its software and enterprise services businesses and took on various M&A transactions. After spending two years focused on M&A, venture investments and restructurings, he joined the securities and governance team and now oversees the work of junior attorneys and paralegals, and mentors summer associates and new attorneys.
‘Over the last few years, [Jon] has been able to redefine what it means to be a corporate counsel, to redefine and elevate our standard of work at HPE and enhance our governance and board processes, to innovate and redefine what is possible, and to spread joy and redefine having fun in the workplace,’ says Derek Windham, vice president, associate general counsel and assistant secretary at HPE.
Among his achievements with the governance team, White is credited with being a key part of the shareholder engagement program. ‘Jon spends significant time researching our shareholders, including their views and goals for shareholder engagement, understanding HPE’s strategic priorities and the role of issues such as [ESG] priorities and human capital management with regard to HPE’s strategy, and developing a thoughtful framework for our board to engage with directors on these issues,’ Windham writes.
During the 2020 engagement season, White collaborated with the company’s human resources and corporate affairs teams to gather information that would be useful in creating materials for shareholders.
He devised a playbook, too, designed to help prepare directors for engagement by providing strategies, goals, presentation materials, key talking points and detailed shareholder profiles. The playbook also helps board members understand shareholder priorities, voting guidelines and historical voting patterns.
White has made further strides in supporting directors and board processes. He revamped and improved both directors’ and officers’ and management questionnaires, having looked at best practices and simplified complex legal language to make them more user-friendly, and helped move them to an online platform.
He also designed, drafted and assembled a 52-page orientation packet for new directors that outlines HPE’s strategy, board and governance practices, compensation philosophy, people and culture, approach to ESG and other corporate governance trends. Windham notes that this has been highly valuable, particularly with three new directors having joined HPE’s board in 2019-2020.
Among other things, White took a lead role in producing HPE’s 2020 proxy statement, with the aim of increasing disclosures in areas such as risk oversight, ESG issues and audit committee matters and of incorporating infographic elements to make the document easier for shareholders to process. In order to prepare, he conducted extensive benchmarking of best disclosures and what shareholders want to gain from a proxy statement.
You can read more about the Corporate Governance Awards in the Corporate Secretary Yearbook