Having worked in several large FTSE companies as a chartered company secretary, I’ve experienced first-hand a general lack of awareness of what the role actually entails, even by other group departments that I’ve worked in close proximity to.
Amongst other various comments and questions, I’ve been asked:
- “how many words a minute can you type?”
- “what do you actually do in the morgue? it’s just so quiet over there”
- “what goes on in the twilight zone?”
This makes me question whether company secretarial departments are just too modest, which is why their profile within the business is so understated – surely with the myriad of skills and technical abilities teams should be communicating as thought leaders to the rest of the business?
Company secretaries are governance professionals who support and advise boards, assist strategic goals and promote business to be conducted legally and ethically. They also possess skills in legal, finance and business management. Often being referred to as ‘the conscience of the company’, they act as moral compasses to ensure high levels of compliance, so businesses are run with consideration to all stakeholders for long-term sustainable performance.
They have involvement in a variety of diverse projects that cross over with departments such as legal, risk, investor relations, group reward and group finance. However, these expertise are scantily shared with the rest of the business, which I think is a real shame. If we want to foster a genuine culture for ‘doing the right thing’ as part of day to day business, which involves having buy-in from every employee, then who best to spearhead this initiative than ‘the conscious of the company’?
I understand this is a generalisation and there are some teams that I’m sure already execute this approach, but I’d like to see company secretarial departments go beyond policy creation and communicate more. Collaboration and involvement with HR and Comms initiatives could really bolster internal communication campaigns to help employees really understand what it means to live and breathe the values and ethics of the company, just like us company secretaries!
Raise the bar and challenge the process.