Tom Morrison Essay Prize

Entry is now closed for this year’s essay competition. Winners will be notified by the end of April. Good luck to all who entered.

Essay competition 2019

Entry to this year’s competition closed at 5pm GMT on 18 March 2019.

Thank you to everybody who submitted an essay for this year’s competition, which looked at the following subject:

In an increasingly automated world, robotics, AI* and other technological advancements are expected to have an impact on governance. Consider the opportunities, challenges, benefits and risks that such technologies might bring to the role of the company secretary.

*Artificial Intelligence

Winners will be notified of their win by the end of April and invited to attend a prize-giving ceremony and celebratory dinner in London in May. 

Details of the 2020 Tom Morrison Essay Prize will be released in due course, so check back for details later in the year.

Background


Tom Morrison, who died in 2014, was an active member and ex-President of ICSA and a leading light in ICSA’s Registrar Group. A highly regarded and influential member of the share registration industry, Tom was an early supporter of the unique work of ShareGift, the charity which instigated the prize and which made a generous donation to The Chartered Secretaries’ Charitable Trust in order to establish it and fund the prizes.

2018 Winners

Essay question:

It has been said that governance failures usually happen within the subsidiary structure of a large business, but all governance focus tends to be at the main board level. Is the focus on the right area and, if not, what improvements could be made?

Your answer need not be restricted to the corporate sector.  References to other sectors (public sector, not-for-profit organisations, etc.) can be used to support your argument.

First place – Elizabeth Colvin

The winner of the 2018 Tom Morrison Essay Prize met the brief by considering whether a main board centric approach to corporate governance is appropriate in a landscape that comprises a wide variety of legal entities. In her essay, Elizabeth considered culture and ethics and deliberated if existing corporate governance codes are dealing with subsidiary governance properly. Finally, she reviewed a number of measures that could be implemented or extended to improve governance at a subsidiary level. Read the essay here.

Second place – Indira Ramkissoon-Rambharose

The 2018 runner-up focused on the ethical aspect of governance success. Indira’s essay sought to illustrate that what occurs below board level and within the subsidiaries is equally important as what happens at board level. She explored the idea that an ethical framework constitutes the epicentre of successful business governance as it goes beyond the gaps left by legal provisions. Read the essay here.

Ceremony images - 2018

NB: The opinions expressed represent the writers' own views and not necessarily those of their employers

Previous winners

2017

2017 essay question

‘The Annual General Meeting is an important governance process for the members of an organisation. It can ensure transparency, provide updates and give members an opportunity to vote on a range of matters. New meeting technology and virtual attendance products offer the potential to change the format of the AGM. With particular reference to governance, discuss the relevance, future development and challenges of the AGM.’

First place - Dr Rhona Sim

The winner of the 2017 Tom Morrison Essay Prize met the brief in challenging conventional thinking, looking widely at the organisational and international aspects of the AGM and its role in corporate governance. Although acknowledging the potential offered by new technology and electronic participation in the AGM, the essay focused on the substantive issues of meeting the UK Corporate Governance Code’s emphasis on ensuring accountability – with particular emphasis on the election of directors, the role of board evaluations and executive remuneration policies. Read the essay here.

Second place - Nicholas Cottrell

The 2017 runner-up explored the difficulties inherent in the current format of the AGM, particularly with the low degree of shareholder engagement. The essay examined the potential of using technology to run ‘virtual’ AGMs and questioned the extent to which this would improve accountability and transparency before concluding that the future might lie in holding ‘hybrid’ AGMs, combining traditional physical meetings with additional online access.
Read the essay here.

2016

2016 essay question

‘Does good governance require a fresh approach?’

First place – Ruth Keating

The 2016 winning essay took a broad overview of corporate governance, exploring examples of failed corporate governance and attributing these failures to an absence of belief in the true value of corporate governance, and a reliance on adhering to systems of rules.  Significantly, and very relevant to the competition, Ruth argues that good corporate governance should “reduce corporate arrogance by encouraging the views of dissenters!”  She concludes that corporate governance could and should do better, by ceasing to be a formality and becoming a way of business life.

The judges admired the way Ruth identified the problems, acknowledged the importance of culture and behaviour, suggested a solution and presented her essay as an enjoyable and thought-provoking piece of work. Read the essay here.

Second place – Rebecca Keating

Ruth’s twin sister Rebecca’s essay focused on the impact of new technology on corporate governance, dealing with concerns about cyber security and the paradoxical situation that occurs when engaged and collaborative employees are increasingly the custodians of corporate data - but at the same time become points of vulnerability in terms of data leakage, whether that leakage happens through negligence or malicious cyber-attack. Rebecca’s essay explores these questions and concludes that 21st century corporate governance must address data security in a collaborative way that involves not only a few key stakeholders at the top of organisations but each and every employee. 

The judges agreed that this essay tackled a specific governance issue in depth, that it took a fresh approach to the topic and was of practical significance to organisations.
Read the essay here.

Supporters

ShareGift

Tom was an early supporter of the unique work of ShareGift, the share donation charity, which instigated the Tom Morrison Essay Prize and made an initial donation to The Chartered Secretaries’ Charitable Trust in order to establish it and fund the prizes.

Computershare

Tom was a much loved employee of Computershare, and each year Computershare hosts a dinner for the winners of the Tom Morrison Essay Prize. Tom joined Computershare in 1998 when Computershare acquired the Royal Bank of Scotland Registrars business. Recognised for his major contribution to making the acquisition a success and, as Chief Registrar, for being a senior steward in leading the UK share registration business forward, Tom is widely remembered for his significant contributions to the development of the UK securities industry.

Acknowledged to be one of the "fathers of CREST", for his efforts to guide and assist the development and successful introduction of the CREST settlement system, Tom also helped shape industry policy and UK corporate law. In 2012 Tom was given an Outstanding Achievement Award by ICSA to a standing ovation.

Entry information

  • All essays must address the proposed question
  • Entry to the competition is only open to students (ICSA or other), recent graduates or governance professionals with a maximum of two years’ experience in a governance role.
  • All entries must be written in English.
  • Essays should be 2,000-2,500 words in length, with 2,500 being the maximum number of words that will be accepted. 
  • All entries must be word processed and submitted electronically.
  • All prizes are awarded based on the decision of an independent panel of judges.
  • Entries will be judged anonymously, with no indication within the essay of the author’s name, employer’s business or place of work. 
  • There are no geographical restrictions regarding entries. Governance professionals or students from any country can enter.
  • A statement of originality is mandatory.
  • All entries will be subject to a plagiarism check. Essays where clear evidence of plagiarism is found will be disqualified.
  • The judges’ decision is final, no correspondence will be entered into and no reasons given for decisions.
  • Judges will absent themselves from any discussions where they have a vested interest.
  • ICSA reserves the right to publish in full or in part all winning essays and will own the copyright for all winning essays.
  • The winners will be notified of their win by the end of April 2019.
  • Winners will be invited to attend a celebratory dinner in London on 23 May 2019, hosted by Computershare, and a prize giving ceremony at Merchant Taylor’s Hall, London on 24 May.

Judging criteria

Essays will be judged on:

  • The originality of the ideas it contains and the impact it might have on governance – at an organisational, national or international level.
  • The extent to which it challenges conventional thinking and approaches or incorporates principles or practices from other fields.

The judges will also take into account:

  • Clarity of expression, including logical flow of content.
  • Correct use of the English language, including spelling and punctuation.
  • Correct use of referencing and or acknowledgement of material drawn from other sources.

Guidance

  • What explicit assumptions am I making? Can they be challenged?
  • What implicit/taken-for-granted assumptions am I making? Can they be challenged?
  • How logical is my reasoning?
  • How sound is the evidence for my assertion(s)?
  • Whose interests and what interests are served by my assertions?
  • What values underpin my reasoning?
  • What are the implications of my conclusions?
  • What meaning is conveyed by the terminology employed and the language used?
  • What alternative conclusions can be drawn from the evidence?


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