• board of directors;
  • bank;
  • board determinants;
  • corporate governance

This paper explores the factors influencing the board composition of an international sample of commercial banks over the period 1996–2006. After considering the dual role of the board as monitor and advisor, our analysis shows that no one board composition is optimal for the banking industry and that any such recommendation could harm bank governance. Our results suggest that more complex banks that have a low ownership concentration and are headquartered in a civil law country should have larger and more independent boards. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.