Natalie Sykes: Thomas Cook collapse highlights the value of good corporate governance

The collapse of Thomas Cook has been horrendous for all involved, especially the thousands of people who lost their jobs.

Thomas Cook's collapse has been horrendous for all involved, says Natalie Sykes
Thomas Cook's collapse has been horrendous for all involved, says Natalie Sykes

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The knock-on effects continue to unravel. As the final British holidaymakers stuck overseas were repatriated on emergency flights, those with a cancelled Thomas Cook booking face an anxious wait to get their money back. Hotel operators in Thomas Cook holiday destinations also face an uncertain future with payments outstanding and the likely loss of future bookings.

I have frequently used Thomas Cook to travel to the United States over the past two years and am among those to have had flights cancelled.

Perhaps the only bright spot in this deeply regrettable situation has been the success of the Civil Aviation Authority’s two-week Operation Matterhorn repatriation programme, in the face of considerable complexity and emotion. Questions are being asked as to how Thomas Cook could collapse in this way, with the spotlight turning on the company’s corporate governance. Whilst it’s important not to prejudge the outcome of any investigation, it is vital that we gain a full understanding of what happened. Executive pay, bonuses and accountability are all under scrutiny at a time when emotions are running high. Those employees, holidaymakers and suppliers affected need answers or, at the very least, to know that lessons have been learned.

Following other high-profile collapses such as that of Carillion last year, there is a risk that the already low level of public trust in business sinks further. That’s not fair because most UK businesses do not deserve to be tarred by this brush. In order to maintain confidence in business, we need to ensure that good governance is core to all companies’ strategies. Ongoing learning is fundamental to this. If we fail to develop our skills as directors, bad habits can set in. Poor decision-making costs jobs and reputations. We are bringing together directors from across Yorkshire and the North East for a Directors’ Skills Day in York next month for this exact reason. Taking place on 8 November at the Principal Hotel, we offer the option of a full-day or half-day.

Guest speaker will be Jon Geldart, the newly appointed Director General of the IoD, and former regional chair here in Yorkshire and the Humber. His insight and expertise will perfectly complement the wide-ranging and vital content of our four expert-led courses. Whether you’re a newly appointed director aspiring to achieve your first board position or looking to progress your career to the next level, our aim is to develop your understanding of strategy, leadership, and effectiveness. Attendees will be part of a group of leaders from organisations of all shapes and sizes across the region, providing an opportunity to connect, learn and share. Content will include industry case studies and practical exercises designed to facilitate peer networking. To book, visit or contact [email protected] Good directors make good businesses. If we keep learning and remember that our businesses have a positive role to play in society then everyone can be a winner.

By Natalie Sykes, regional director, Institute of Directors