23 Mar Company Secretaries: at the heart of corporate life
As we pass the spring equinox and look forward to the bi-annual ritual of the changing of the clocks, Companies House has taken the opportunity to issue a timely reminder. Their article, “Don’t be late, for those very important dates” reminds organisations of the importance not only of filing company accounts on time but also of updating records in respect of raft of changes to company information including shareholders and company officers.
Not only is the Companies House reminder a timely one, it also highlights the important role which company secretaries play at the legal and regulatory heart of corporate life. When we think of the role of company secretary it can be all too easy to concentrate on the regulatory aspects, submitting returns, organising the company board and shareholder meetings, and maintaining statutory registers. And these are undoubtedly key elements of the role. Perhaps what is less appreciated is the role which company secretaries play as advisor to the board on matters of corporate governance and the duties of a director.
Far from being ‘paper shufflers’, company secretaries therefore need to have a broad skill and knowledge set. A good background in company law and finance is required but, in order to provide effective advice to the board, company secretaries also need to be strong communicators and good strategists. Directors may have their individual areas of responsibility but it is up to the company secretary to ensure that the board is briefed on any changes in legislation which may affect the organisation. The role therefore requires good research and investigative abilities, being able to cut through legislation and translate it into practical approaches which will best benefit the organisation.
As a consequence, in recent years company secretaries have taken an increasingly important role in delivering strong corporate governance. This includes overseeing, briefing and advising as well as helping board directors to identify their own training and developmental needs. Key to governance success is the development of a strong working relationship between the chairman and the company secretary delivering a two-way exchange of ideas and information for the overall benefit of the organisation.
Investigator, communicator, strategist; it is no wonder that company secretaries have taken an increasingly important role at the heart of corporate life.