Addressing the balancing act for Company Secretaries at Thomson Reuters

The company secretary role is incredibly complex in nature, continuing legislative changes mean the complexity of this role is only going to increase. Why is the role so complex, especially when considered by many to be nothing more than an administrative position.

Earlier this week, eShare attended the Thomson Reuters Forum for Unlisted Companies conference in London–part of their Company Secretary Series–to meet with those attending and discuss some of the challenges they face in their everyday work life.

Throughout the day, we were provided with valuable insights into the challenges of a varied role filled a host of complex tasks to keep an organisation moving in the right direction. A company secretary’s job scope provides an insight into the frantic nature of the role, as they are secretary for the company, not just the board, something which is often overlooked by demanding directors.

The demanding nature of this position is one that the more experienced CoSecs are used to, given how challenging this role is from the outset. The first 10 years or so in their career are incredibly tough, they have to take so much on board, while carving a place for themselves as that player in the middle that drives effectiveness within the organisation on top of the rigorous on-the-job training needed just to cover the basics. Establishing such a position as a trusted advisor to the board requires exceptional anticipative skills, but a high level of confidence to deal with directors who have their own agendas, and can be liable to posturing themselves in meetings.

Building confidence as an effective company secretary encompasses much more than being confident in one’s own ability, but as an advisor to the board, it requires credibility and a trust from the board in your abilities to cover all bases effectively. This was reiterated in a fantastic panel session we sat in on, chaired by Nicholas Eldred, Director at NE Consulting Services, which discussed the role of the Company Secretary to support effective boardroom dynamics.

The session included some Q&A sections, which provided us some fascinating viewpoints into the role, its struggles and how it is viewed, many of the attendees sitting in on the panel voiced their concerns over the clarity of their role. As for some who spoke up, they felt like they were ‘treading on the toes’ of other people within the organisation. This opened up a discussion between the panel on the business case for the Company Secretary, which was one of the focus areas for that panel session.

The panel began with a discussion on the job role for any CoSec, regulatory and legislative changes and how keeping on top of them so that the organisation continues to stay compliant works in their favour and creates a business case for company secretaries. Recent changes in the regulatory landscape, such Brexit and GDPR, help strengthen that part of business case for the role. The ability to take a helicopter view and anticipate the needs of the organisation is a key part of a company secretary’s work. This ability further cements the business case for the company secretary, as they are in a prime position to cultivate positive talks that ask the right questions at the right time so the right resolutions and decisions are made.

It is clear that the role involves much more than compiling board meeting packs, however with a large chunk of their time eaten up by this task and sense checking what has been included. How do they deal with this balancing act and stop it from becoming an uncontrollable whirlwind? Research by eShare found on average, paper board packs take 9.5 hours to compile, containing 98 pages with 8 members on each board. These averages only provide a small picture of some CoSecs’ workload, one of the panel members disclaimed that she recently had to deal with a 2000 page meeting pack, which she felt was filled with a tremendous amount of unnecessary information. One of the panel members from the session we sat in, Tracey Brady, Managing Director at Link Asset Services, felt that moving towards portals is important when asked about improving the processes around building meeting packs

eShare’s portal—BoardPacks—helps company secretaries shave hours off their workload by automating the mundane, laborious tasks, helping them keep on top of their workload without the juggling act. It was great to show the attendees at our stand the benefits that BoardPacks can bring to their everyday work life. They particularly liked the ease with which they could set up meeting agendas and populate the meeting. Another favourite was the ability to add decisions into the agenda and the easy approval process that follows, which coincides with our new decisions dashboard being released on the 11th June. If you would like to know more about how BoardPacks can improve your workload and help improve your organisation’s operations and decision-making, please do get in touch.

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