Knowledge & Insight

The evolution of the company secretary

Mon 3 November 2014

The role of company secretary has changed significantly in recent years. Since the financial crisis in 2008 there has been a tighter focus on corporate governance in all sectors, not just financial services. And boards and chairmen in all industries now rely on the company secretary to advise not only on statutory duties, but also on matters concerning corporate governance and effective board processes. The company secretary has gained greater visibility and greater influence in the boardroom.

The traditional company secretary

The company secretary is generally considered the chief administrative officer, with responsibility for specified tasks as outlined in the Companies Act. Long regarded as subservient to the board, the role has sometimes been viewed as little more than a clerical position, with an obligation to ensure reporting requirements are met and board procedure is adhered to. Of course, the company secretary also provides a vital link between the chairman and the CEO and the board, and this certainly remains true today. Yet many of the traditional role requirements have evolved in recent years, and today’s company secretaries often behave rather differently to their counterparts of 25 years ago.

Today’s company secretary

In most organisations, the company secretary has become the primary link between the executive management and the board and other key stakeholders, and they will act as the key point of liaison for regulators and major shareholders. Although their impartiality remains crucial, today’s company secretaries frequently identify themselves as the third member of the triumvirate at the head of the company, along with the CEO and chair. And in this role, they must bring a strategic outlook and a level of commercial understanding that was rarely seen in company secretaries of 10 or 20 years ago.

Key attributes of an effective company secretary

According to company law, when appointing a company secretary, the directors must ensure the person has “the requisite knowledge and experience to discharge the functions of secretary of the company”. Yet today’s company secretaries must possess a broad range of attributes. They must be talented leaders, with the confidence and ability to influence their chairman and senior board members. They must possess strong commercial acumen together with well-developed technical knowledge relevant to their industry. They must also be skilled communicators, able to effortlessly engage with their executive board, NEDs and regulatory bodies. And they must be able to combine sharp intelligence with broad experience to make sound, well-informed decisions.

Legal & company secretarial executive search

Effective company secretaries are now highly skilled, multi-talented leaders with a flair for communication and relationship-building, plus the technical ability to oversee critical governance and reporting duties. So attracting hard-to-find individuals who possess the right breadth and depth of capabilities is no easy task. That’s why recruiting a company secretary requires the services of a specialised  legal & company executive search firm. Stone Executive are respected legal & company headhunters with a strong track-record of success. Our recruitment consultants are skilled company secretarial headhunters with an impressive professional network that spans FTSE100 companies and medium-sized businesses across the UK. With a wealth of experience in company secretarial executive search, they have a strong track-record of meeting the most challenging of briefs.

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