Company Secretary


This at one time was as recognised as being equal ti a Chartered Accountant but seems to some extent to have taken a back seat. However with all of the complexities of Company Law and the Corporate Governance issues is not this a qualification that is badly needed? There are of course no specific degrees for this but a background in accounting would always be helpful. I know some CA’s are also FCIS but they are now few and far between os how do people view this qualification?
PLC’s need to be aware of the Corporate Governance issues as has been recently displayed in some high profile cases, and although they will have executive and non-executive directors who are assigned this area they will be advised by the Company Secretary.
Surely that is an example of this qualification being underplayed and undervalued?
What are people’s thoughts?


This is an area that I am particularly interested in as I am looking to branch more into company secretarial roles. I know there have been changes in the law which mean that private businesses no longer need a specific company secretary but this seems to have actually opened up more opportunities for those of us looking to take on these roles from different backgrounds. For example there are often roles coming up now that incorporate other areas of knowledge such as accounting or law, widening the opportunities overall for everyone.
Personally, I would say that it is well worth getting some work experience particularly in a commercial environment as company secretaries are now expected to be much more commercial and rounded individuals, even information relating to marketing for example would be useful. For the larger public companies there is still likely to be a tendency towards favouring those with accounting or legal qualifications so do bear this in mind. The role is becoming increasingly flexible though so don’t worry too much about the specific qualification but do try and make sure that the modules you study are going to be useful in practice when it comes to undertaking a company secretarial role.


Hi Stella

Some wise words.

The traditional role has, as you suggest, changed over time and is far more a commercial approach. The function of being present at Board Meetings and advising the directors is still prime, although there is now a different approach required in respect of executive as opposed to non-executive directors. the filing of statutory forms is still a necessity although the share dealings may now be outsourced to specialists.
having pointed out that those tasks remain there are a lot more legal implications for many companies and this does suggest that, as you say a legal background, would be good. These days with legal costs being astronomical whatever can be done in-house will be done. This applies to areas if Internet law also.
Company Secretaries also need to have good understanding of elements of accounting as such legislation as SOX does cross both boundaries.
In terms of training there is the professional exams of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and these will obviously be a very good support to any career as a Company Secretary.
As for degrees a course which incorporates business law and the principals of accounting would not go amiss.


The role of company secretary really does seem interesting. My understanding of the situation however is that it a role generally fulfilled by more mature members of the workforce who have the commercial experience necessary. This may well be a misconception and I would welcome any suggestion to the contrary. Would gaining a specific qualification enable someone with little real experience to take on this role or is it always going to be viewed as a type of consultancy role generally filled by those who have been in the industry for several years?
Your thoughts appreciated!



I think there are two sides to the situation.
The first side is that of the newly qualified company secretary. I can here speak with first hand experience. I was involved in an IPO that subsequently became a reverse takeover and the knowledge of the newly qualified Co Sec was invaluable. I and one other accountant had enough trouble putting our minds around the reverse takeover form an accounting position, whereas the Co Sec sorted out all the legal implications with the co lawyers. She took care of all the announcements and let nobody down She know what to do in respect of the submission timings and even correct the lawyers - dangerous I suggest! I am not sure that in this case the more mature Co Sec would have been so switched on and thus the lawyers would have had even more exorbitant fees to offer.
However the transactions did reveal that her commercial knowledge was poor and that she needed to be in commerce another 10 years or so to actually grasp the thinking necessary.
I think that both types have their place and that one cannot say one is better than the other. It does depend on the type of work you are giving them.


I would agree with Pomponian. Although there are some real benefits from the newly qualified company secretaries particularly given how complicated transactions have become in re cent years and therefore the older secretaries may simply not have been trained to deal with the issues. However gaining access to these roles is, in my experience, even more of an old boys club than many other areas of commerce and this may make it very difficult for the new qualified company secretaries to gain access to roles even if they are more than capable of fulfilling these roles. I am in no doubt that a newly qualified company secretary is highly skilled but without the opportunities to take on roles they will never gain the commercial experience and this is a real worry for those looking to enter into this area of the market.



I think you make a salient point in respect of the ‘old boys club’. There has, and in my view, always will be a tendency for certain groups of people to get to know each other on a professional basis, on the membership of a certain club, or even Rotary, and then that shuts the door for new entrants to certain fields.
There is no way through this as far as I can see and thus the path for people such as newly qualified company secretaries is full of hurdles, or indeed is more akin to a 3000 metre steeplechase.
The issue is that by closing the door many companies are losing out and as the old school boys drop out of business, one wonders what the future is. Filling a dead man’s shoes is not that comfortable.
As these professional associations have their own magazines and Web sites they should be actively promoting the newly qualifieds.