Company secretaries are increasingly gaining prominence in organisations, according to new research.
A study from technology firm eShare, ‘Under pressure: the company secretary and the growing need for effective governance’, reveals the company secretary is one of the least recognised board members amongst UK firms, with just 15 per cent of UK employees able to identify the company secretary in their organisation.
Yet that role is becoming harder than ever before, and as a result is becoming increasingly high profile.
“Changes in the business and economic landscape over the past few years have meant there are more governance and compliance requirements than ever before, and the penalties for not meeting those requirements are severe, with enormous fines for those found guilty. The responsibility for this lies mostly with the CoSec (company secretary),” Alister Esam, CEO of eShare said.
The new eShare white paper has contributions from a number of CoSecs in the UK and US, and explores how the role has changed over the past decade or so, and what tools and technologies are now available to help CoSecs.
The whitepaper finds that what was once an important but relatively low profile position that focussed on internal checks and balances, has become one of the most exposed, with overall responsibility for the organisation’s corporate governance.
“The biggest challenge for company secretaries is doing more with less,” said James Menzies, Director EMEIA Tax Centre, Corporate Secretarial Support Services, Ernst & Young LLP. “The increasing profile of corporate governance, more reporting and more transparency, opposed by a steady pressure on budgets and headcount mean that the company secretary of the future will need to be able to work ever smarter, embrace change and new challenges in order to succeed.”
With governance and good corporate behaviour increasingly important to business success, the role of the CoSec has broadened further still, setting the agenda for that organisation’s governance and overall corporate culture, according to eShare’s Esam.
“Good governance entails knowing what you are and why you exist, being well-run from top to bottom and having internal values and behaviours that are perpetuated externally across the world. Much of this stems from the company secretary role – if all this is addressed at a senior level it filters down through the organisation much more effectively.”