The Evolution of the Company Secretary
16 August 2023
Caretakers of your business
Historically, the term ‘secretary’ was associated with light administrative duties that supported the broader aims of a business, but much has changed. Today’s company secretaries fulfil a wider and more strategic remit. Sitting at the operational core, they act as the conduit between an organisation’s Board and key stakeholders, operating as its eyes and ears to simultaneously protect the business and help it achieve its strategic goals.
Keeping pace with corporate obligations is an ongoing process, requiring the continuous monitoring of the latest regulations and statutory obligations set out by each jurisdiction against the company’s current operations. This is why the best company secretaries will have an in-depth technical knowledge of corporate governance best practice and how this impacts an organisation. A company with strong processes and procedures in place, and a skilled company secretary at the helm, reduces the chances of issues arising that could drastically impact its reputation.
A safe pair of hands
Assigning company secretarial duties to a senior staff member as a ‘secondary role’ may be tempting, but it can prove costly. In addition to becoming a distraction from their primary role, few employees have the time needed for rigorous corporate governance, which can lead to mistakes being made. For example, Board minutes are considered critical, legal documents, evidencing decisions and motivations for undertaking a particular strategy in the business and shareholders’ best interests. The GFSC has highlighted the importance of maintaining accurate and appropriately detailed minutes in its public statements.
In a sector where communication is critical, an experienced company secretary will provide a unique 360-degree view of the business, ensuring a clear and concise information flow between all stakeholders. In some sectors, however, their duties are far wider reaching. In the funds space, for example, regular company secretarial activities include corporate actions, satisfying listing requirements, and overseeing the collation and review of launch documentation, including the fund prospectus. Company secretaries also ensure the fund's corporate governance policies align with regulatory requirements and communication between the Board and shareholders remains regular, transparent and adequate.
Adding value through expertise
Recruiting corporate secretarial specialists is an ongoing challenge that costs time and money, which is why many organisations invest in outsourced expertise. A leading corporate service provider understands that organisations require a tailored approach that meets their individual needs, either on a long-term or project basis, so they can flex accordingly. Outsourcing a company secretary is often more cost-efficient than a permanent hire, and it can deliver multiple other benefits.
The best professionals continuously invest in their expertise, upskilling while ensuring they stay abreast of all regulatory and legal changes to deliver a premium service to their clients. In addition to providing a professional, objective view, they are adept at supporting multiple organisations, from small businesses to multi-jurisdictional financial services firms and listed companies, so have a unique and in-depth sector knowledge that can actively improve operations and boost productivity.
While a company secretary is vital to ensuring that organisations implement and maintain good corporate governance, the role delivers unparalleled support for companies committed to driving their business forward.
by Gwen Norman, Senior Manager