Company Secretaries play pivotal corporate governance roles

By Staff writer

Company secretaries play a pivotal role in ensuring good corporate governance is practised in the institutions they work for, according to the visiting Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA) International president, Mr David Venus.


Giving the keynote address at the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in Zimbabwe annual conference last week at the Elephant Hills Resort in Victoria Falls, Mr Venus said an appropriate corporate and risk culture comes from the top in any organisation.


“An appropriate corporate and risk culture comes from the top in any organisation and therefore starts with the board. That is why there is so much talk about boardroom behaviour. It is the starting place.


“The company secretary is central to this with the support he or she gives to the chairman and the advice and assistance given to the board. In a room full of egos and powerful views, the secretary is key to building trust and an open culture.

“In addition, the company secretary is often the longest serving member present at board meetings, so is a vital repository of company history and culture,” he added.


Mr Venus went on to say the United Kingdom Code says effective leadership requires living and upholding high standards of integrity and probity inside and outside the boardroom, through setting clear expectations in terms of culture and values, as well as in terms of the style and tone of board discussions.


“Poor culture costs money. Good governance is good business. Numerous studies have shown that high standards of corporate governance in a public company lead to a higher share price and long-term profit growth.


“So, the skills that are required today for us to do our jobs as company secretaries are many, varied, challenging but very rewarding,” he said.


Mr Venus went on to say a report commissioned by the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Associated Territories (UKRIAT) Division of ICSA in 2014 by Professor Andrew Kakabadse of the Henley Business School described the best of the profession as ‘majestic’ in the range of skills that they possess and display every day.


“We deliver strategic leadership and combine huge technical and professional acumen with acute emotional intelligence. We each need to develop our skills to become majestic.


“Our individual progress and development are essential to achieve our goals because the skills of the top company secretary now require so much more than administrative capability.


“Most of us start our careers with compliance. For that we need our training in law, finance, regulation, governance and organisation. To do this we must be ethical, trustworthy, meticulous, patient, accurate, enthusiastic, professional, discreet, constructive and analytical.

“Then we progress to governance and the delivery of strategy. We need all these skills and more. We must have applied governance knowledge. We must be strategic, resilient, tenacious, pragmatic, influential, flexible, communicative and have perspective, display good judgment, be holistic, persuasive, diplomatic and independent.


“We can and should then endeavour to lead. For leadership, we need all the other skills and then still more.


“We need well developed social, emotional and situational skills, intellectual intelligence, to be good listeners, good communicators, be a leader and a follower, respected, wise, visionary, possess humanity, humility, be passionate, consensual, have integrity and be intuitive,” he said.


“Company secretaries make good leaders and more of us should aspire to these roles,” Mr Venus added.


“The future is bright for our profession but with big opportunity comes great responsibility.


“We each need to develop and acquire the necessary skills to meet these weighty responsibilities so that our organisations rise to the challenges of this new world and thrive but more importantly to ensure that each of us has the best and most satisfying career we can,” he said.