ICSA: The Governance Institute
The role as a company secretary does lend itself as a fast track to the boardroom and I particularly enjoy being involved at board level with a broad ranging portfolio of clients.
Any two days in the life of a Company Secretary are seldom the same as the job varies as widely as the business decisions taken by each company.
Ryan Cooke – Company Secretary Arthur Cox
ICSA: The Governance Institute is the professional body for company secretaries, who occupy an important position within all organisations, ensuring they are compliant with law and regulation.
What is a company secretary?
Company secretaries are officers of a company or other organisation who report directly to the Chairman and are responsible for ensuring that the organisation fulfils its statutory obligations and is well-governed. Statutory obligations include filings with the Companies Registration Office, administering of employee share schemes, producing an annual report and running an annual general meeting. Good governance includes ensuring that the full board and any of its committees (e.g., the audit committee) are well-serviced via effective board member induction, efficient distribution of papers and minute-taking and by advising the board (via the chairman) of any new regulations that affect the enterprise.
All companies – whether public or private - are required by the Irish Companies Act 2014 to have a company secretary. In addition, there is a statutory obligation on the part of all directors in Ireland that the company secretary has the appropriate resources and training to perform the role. The opportunities for employment are therefore considerable.
What kind of people go into this career?
As with most careers, company secretaries come from all kinds of academic and social backgrounds. However, the career rewards individuals with highly developed intellectual capability, attention to detail, discretion and the interpersonal skills to develop relationships of influence at board level and across an organisation. Practitioners need to be highly versed in company law, governance and compliance.
The company secretary career is particularly suited to law students who decide that they want to build on their legal training to develop a broader business career.
The Chartered Secretaries Qualifying Scheme (CSQS) is set at postgraduate level and covers eight modules in law, finances, secretarial practice, governance and strategy. However, exemptions from two of these modules are available to law graduates (and to four of the modules to qualified solicitors or barristers).
ICSA also recognises the Masters programme in Management and Corporate Governance which is run by the University of Ulster, also delivered in Marino College in Dublin, which confers GradICSA status (the first step towards becoming a chartered company secretary) on successful graduates.
A career as a company secretary
You have to have integrity and clarity in what you believe because when challenging times come, people may look for shortcuts or not do things correctly. The company secretary is very much there to advise, to do the right thing and to be clever in relation to how to get people on board.
Conor Sweeney FCIS, Director, CLS Chartered Secretaries
The MSc Management and Corporate Governance Grad/ICSA course [see above] equipped me for a career as a company secretary through the development of transferable intellectual skills, application of corporate governance to organisations, management of finances and the legal environment organisations operate in.
Paul McCullagh: Assistant Vice President, Corporate Secretariat, Barclays Bank PLC
One of the benefits of a career as a company secretary is that it provides exposure to so many different and varied areas within business.
The ICSA qualification is highly respected within many professions as the standard bearer for providing excellent company law and corporate governance services.
As the company secretarial role is so wide and diverse, it liaises with and requires a knowledge of many different aspects of business within organisations such as tax, risk, legal, finance and compliance.
Richard Smyth: Senior Associate, Corporate Governance and Strategic Project Office, Depfa Bank plc