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The Company Secretary in 2017: what support do you need?

The Role of the Company Secretary

The Company Secretary role is evolving. We first explored this in a blog earlier this year.

Here we look again at the changes your role is experiencing, and identify some of the tools, solutions and services that can help you – vital support mechanisms to make your job easier, more effective and more fulfilling.

What is the role of the Company Secretary?

Your role has always demanded a unique set of skills and traits.

You need to be confident enough to challenge your firm’s most senior people. And be able to do it in a diplomatic way. You also need to have the gravitas to be listened to.

You can be called on to act as the voice of corporate governance, and need to retain an up-to-date knowledge of current best practice and regulations.

Your involvement in some of the business’s most confidential decisions demands discretion.

Often, the Company Secretary is the bridge between the firm and its key stakeholders. Messages around corporate social responsibility, financial results and compliance often fall to you.

In contrast, some aspects of the Company Secretary role are very administrative. Compiling board papers can be a labour-intensive task, while taking meeting minutes demands attention to detail and accuracy.

Are Company Secretaries becoming more strategic?

In recent years, you may have seen your role change.

There are suggestions that it’s currently in a transitional phase, moving towards an increasingly strategic function within the business.

Why is this?

  1. 1. There’s an increased focus on corporate governance. The Financial Reporting Council called earlier this year for boards to have better governance, prompting us to argue that you need a compliance expert on your board.

With your role a focal point for governance discussions and communications, it’s not surprising that you’re becoming more visible.

  1. 2. The Company Secretary is close to the top of the organisation. Often reporting to the chair, with close alignment to the CEO, you are privy to very senior discussions. Increasingly, your part in this senior leadership group is being recognised, and your role seen as far more than a clerical one.

3. The board itself is growing. The number of non-executive directors, in particular, has increased in recent years – the financial crisis being an incentive for banking and related firms – with businesses keen to prevent any repeat of poor industry-wide practices.

This makes your job bigger than ever. You have to brief an ever-increasing number of members for meetings (we have tips on how to do this here) and make sure the meetings run efficiently (advice on this here).

What does this changing role mean?

With your responsibilities becoming more wide-ranging and high-level, you need reliable tools and services to support you.

An increasing number of meetings; a growing board; a broader remit – all these things make it harder to keep up with all the jobs that historically fall to the Company Secretary.

What support do Company Secretaries need?

One of your core responsibilities is the production of board packs. If this is a manual job in your organisation, you’ll know how time-consuming, labour-intensive and unwieldy it can be.

Consider an online, portal-based approach and you remove the paper mountain from your workload. Board portals can make it easier to compile packs, with last-minute changes or additions to papers easily incorporated.

But choose wisely. Not all portals are created equal. Make sure the one you opt for offers the customer support you need, is cost-effective for your organisation and user-friendly. And check that the service you’ll receive matches up to the software.

Of course, preparation is only half the story. You also need to make sure the meetings themselves are effective, efficient and deliver good decisions.

Making the most of techniques and approaches to support decision-making can be helpful.  Situational intelligence can be used to ensure that all the information at the board’s disposal is captured and used to inform choices.

Having a good board pack also supports you in making meetings as efficient as possible. Making it easy for directors to find, use and share the essential information among the board papers is crucial to efficient decision-making.

Help your directors to make the best use of their time, with the support of the right tools, and your role will become more valued than ever.

For more on the way your responsibilities are changing, and what you should do to capitalise on the opportunities this offers, while avoiding the risks, you might want to read our whitepaper, The evolving role of the Company Secretary, which is free to download here.

The evolving role of the company secretary

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