How would you describe your role as a company secretary?
It is all-encompassing! It is a role that seems to glue the company together as the company secretary is expected to be involved in such a wide variety of tasks with several departments. You could be advising on board or company matters, liaising with the finance managers to review and file accounts, collaborating with international teams to provide audit evidence to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
Advising on legal contracts or intellectual property matters, providing training to the organisation on a new process or legislation, or setting up a new system for staff and drafting appropriate communication to notify them of the purpose and functions the system provides. You could be working closely with external advisors to plan and organise the AGM and results.
You could also be completing insurance renewal forms, coordinating data for corporate restructures or evidence for injury claims, or keeping company files in order, or even directing a colleague to the most appropriate department to respond to a query as often the secretariat is seen as the fountain of all company knowledge!
Would you say there’s a typical day in the life of a company secretary?
No! You could be preparing to file a confirmation statement and suddenly be asked by your manager to research some information for/relating to the board – could be on quorum or directorships of a board member. Or, post the board meeting you could be asked to set up a further urgent board meeting and collate all the respective papers and load onto the company secretarial software/database, or it could be that an announcement needs to be made urgently to the stock exchange.
You could also be told that the board approved the company making a divestment or acquisition and that you are to manage the data room and work closely with the external advisors (lawyers or investment banks) to gather all evidence/ data and you will need to research the best platforms/providers for this service and to review the agreement and negotiate the best terms and cost effective solution. You could receive a call from a shareholder who has queries about their holdings, so you will need to advise or direct them to the relevant agent to resolve their queries promptly.
You may have daily ad hoc queries coming in. Who do those queries come from and what different levels within the company do they apply to?
These could originate from the board of directors requiring specific information from senior management and within very tight deadlines, which you will often briefly review to ensure it meets the criteria, or check the spelling or formatting to ensure it is presentable to the board.
You could have queries from senior managers in the parent company requesting audit evidence and you will be required to understand the requirements and relay this in clear terms to the relevant lead or analyst for that area and provide background and deadlines.
You will review the submission and clarify any further queries as it could be most likely the parent company may raise similar queries, so you should try to pre-empt this.
An Executive Assistant could ask a question on behalf of a director on the proper process for approving a policy and the format or template to draft the paper for the board to review and approve and then the next steps following approval.
What do you think are the most important skills that you need as a company secretary?
Eye for detail, excellent communication skills, confidentiality (as you will very often have access to highly sensitive corporate or personal information) organisational skills, ability to quickly research legislation or other topics, technology / use of databases, motivation, eagerness to be involved in new projects, staying abreast of current affairs and its affect on the company, good listener.
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