The Company Secretary plays a pivotal role in organising the work of the board of directors. Tasks such as managing board evaluations and taking the board meeting minutes are combined with administering communication with management and carefully targeting messages to shareholders. Multi-tasking is fundamental for a company secretary, as are highly refined communications skills.
Boards depend on company secretaries skill set
In the UK, the Company Secretary plays a pivotal role in the successful administration of the firm, as the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA) points out in a recent report.
The UK Company Secretary has broader responsibilities as well. As ICSA explains, these include: “corporate law, finance, governance and strategy, advising the board in these key areas, as well as providing support to the Chair, CEO and non-executive directors.”
But the board, and the chairperson in particular place a great reliance on the Company Secretary to organise both board meetings and meeting minutes. Along with its ongoing work, as well as directors’ relationship with management, the level of responsibility is consequential.
Discover how Diligent’s board meeting software supports dynamic agenda creation and meeting minutes
What kind of organisational skills are needed from the Company Secretary?
1 Multitasking skills
A Company Secretary has to keep a lot of balls in the air at the same time: preparing for meetings while making sure that corporate governance compliance is up to date; supporting communications between management and the board of directors, etc. “It’s very important to be able to juggle priorities,” writes one UK company secretary, “along with collaborating with a lot of people. Because the job does tend to be quite varied, you have a number of tasks on your desk at any one time, so you need to be able to keep it all going at the same time. But you also need to communicate well so that the people you’re working with understand what you have got on your plate and that they let you know what’s most important to get done first.”
2 Organisational knowledge.
The Company Secretary must understand the business and the context of their organisation. They must be able to translate governance theory into the appropriate frameworks, policies and processes for their organisation. The chairperson will not only depend on the Company Secretary to bring compliance issues to the attention of the board of directors at meetings, but also to provide solutions for implementing actions. The Company Secretary must be able to develop and implement these in a way that their organisation can readily understand and comply with, ICSA comments.
3 Planning skills
A good Company Secretary must be ahead of the game, with plans in place at all times. This is essential, given that board and committee meeting cycles are schedule-driven and external and internal compliance obligations must be met on time. “This means you have to be good at project managing, because there are always several ongoing projects that will require your attention at the same time,” the UK Company Secretary says.
4 An eye for detail. A ‘command of the detail’is required. A Company Secretary must ensure that the work of the board, in particular, as well as that of the larger organisation is executed correctly, without mistakes or omissions. For example, the Company Secretary acts as the shareholders’ first point of contact with your company. Circulation of announcements, correspondence regarding dividends, registration of share ownership, transfers and all areas relating to shareholdings must all be managed seamlessly, as Deloitte writes in a recent report.
5 Effective communication skills
Company secretaries work with senior people – board members or directors, CEOs, senior executives and often many senior external stakeholders (including regulators, investors and funders). They must possess discretion, diplomacy, tact, emotional intelligence and good negotiation skills. They must be able to listen well and effectively communicate both orally and in written form. The Company Secretary should build effective working relationships with all board members, offering impartial advice and acting in the best interests of the company. In promoting board development, the Company Secretary should assist the chairman with all development processes, including board evaluation, induction and training. This should involve implementing a rigorous annual board, committee and individual director assessment and ensuring that the actions arising from the reviews are completed, Deloitte continues.
6 Sound judgement
The ability to assess and make sound judgements, often in circumstances involving conflicting issues and ends, is a key requirement for a company secretary. This is especially so given the senior people with whom a Company Secretary has to deal. The Company Secretary also has an important role in communicating with external stakeholders, such as investors, and is often the first point of contact for queries. The Company Secretary should work closely with the chairman and the board to ensure that effective shareholder relations are maintained.
Diligent’s Governance Cloud and tool for the Company Secretary
Diligent’s Governance Cloud will also ensure that the Company Secretary is up-to-date at all times on the latest regulations and policies.
Diligent Minutes will make planning and executing the board meeting minutes into a straightforward and easy-to-manage task.
Diligent Evaluations provides all of the support required to make the board member evaluation process fast and effective. Questionnaires can be produced rapidly, and communicated to the board in a secure environment.
Diligent Boards moves all of the agendas, documents, annotations and discussions of board meetings online into one intuitive, secure portal. The platform goes beyond digital board books to manage the full scope of a board’s moving parts — committees, contacts, voting, reporting and more.
With Diligent Boards, the Company Secretary will have more than iPad board meeting software at their fingertips. From a single sign-on (even for multiple boards), they’ll be able to work across devices (with real-time syncing) to keep up with committee meetings and materials and to communicate effectively in a secure environment, with the ability to annotate documents in tandem with other users and to get notifications for updates, easily search archives and board resources, complete questionnaires, and submit their votes and signatures any time of the day or night, from anywhere in the world, from their smartphone, tablet or laptop.
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