About ICSA

Our mission

To champion good governance and develop the value, skills and effectiveness of company secretaries and governance professionals in all sectors.

Who we are

We support our members in organisations of all sizes across all sectors of the economy, including large corporates, SMEs, the public sector and charities. We are the only organisation to confer chartered secretary status on those who are suitably qualified and experienced. Established in 1891, our knowledge and expertise is rooted in history and we continue to lead current thinking and practice.

Our members

Company secretaries are governance professionals who support and advise the boards of organisations in all industries and sectors. It is a position of considerable influence requiring a broad skill set and expert knowledge of corporate law, finance, governance, strategy and corporate secretarial practice. ICSA confers chartered secretary status on those who are suitably qualified and experienced. To gain chartered status you must pass ICSA’s Chartered Secretaries Qualifying Scheme (CSQS) or one of our Accredited Masters Programmes and have more than five years’ relevant work experience. Chartered professional status is a widely recognised mark of credibility and professional competence maintained through membership of ICSA.

We have a worldwide presence, with about 34,000 members and students in 80 countries. The UK, Republic of Ireland and Associated Territories division (UKRIAT), directly represents around 14,000 members and students.

ICSA also offers professional subscription to professionals without chartered status who work in governance roles, enabling them to access ICSA’s expertise, resources and networking opportunities.


The introduction of limited liability in 1855, and the first Companies Act in 1862 led to a rapid increase in company formation. By 1892 there were 15,477 companies on the books of the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and the profession of corporation secretaries had emerged to govern their administration. Thomas Brown founded the Institute of Secretaries in 1891 to represent their interests and the royal charter was granted in 1902. Women were admitted in 1916.

From 1914 the Institute of Secretaries was based at London Wall, moving to a Livery Hall purchased from the Worshipful Company of Curriers in 1928. This building was destroyed during an air raid in 1940 and temporary HQ were established in Gresham Street.

In 1964 the Institute of Secretaries moved to Regent’s Park, and in 1970 merged with the Corporation of Secretaries becoming the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in 1971. In 1981 the ICSA absorbed the Institute of Local Government Administrators. In 2014, ICSA moved into its current home in Farringdon. To reflect that our professional support has broadened to include all those in governance roles we are now known as ICSA: The Governance Institute.

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Being a company secretary

The company secretary is a strategic position of considerable influence at the heart of governance operations within an organisation.

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