Tom Morrison Essay Prize

Rewarding original thinking about key aspects of governance since 2016

2020 Winners

Essay question:

Could organisations more proactively address environmental, social and governance issues before being required to do so by regulation? How might this be achieved and what do you see as the role of the governance professional?

FIRST PLACE – MARIECLARE PETER

The winning essay met the brief by addressing ESG in the context of the fundamental question of the role of business – is it purely wealth creation or adding value to society in a wider sense? The author notes the evolution of ESG from its Corporate Social Responsibility roots. The essay then examines the relative advantages of passive and proactive approaches to ESG. The passive approach tends to rely on regulations with the company complying through disclosure and reporting. The author concludes that a proactive stance benefits the company by securing wider stakeholder engagement which is likely to bring greater long-term competitive advantage. The governance professional or company secretary is seen as central to the success of this approach, because of their key role in understanding the history and culture of the organisation and their unique ability to advise the Board “on the risks and opportunities presented by different ESG strategies”.

The judges were impressed by the breadth and depth of research shown in the essay (including excellent referencing and inclusion of a bibliography). Marieclare recognised the conflicts the topic raises for example between the desire for commercial confidentiality and the societal pressures for transparency. It is a well written essay demonstrating clear understanding of the complexity of the topic. Read the essay here

SECOND PLACE – FIROZA DODHI

This essay clearly establishes the author’s belief that long-term sustainable value creation is dependent on proactive engagement with ESG issues. The essay acknowledges the necessity to comply with national and international regulatory standards. It emphasises the importance of creating a forward looking, innovative, ESG aware culture as a means of embedding a positive ethical stance that not only produces immediate financial returns but more importantly builds a positive long-term reputation. Firoza highlights the importance of the governance professional’s ability to scan the changing business environment, to interact with all levels in the organisation, to inform and influence the Board and thus “champion the development of an organisation’s corporate conscience.”

The judges were impressed by the currency of the research, the knowledge of national and international standards, the balance between the strategic and the mid-level issues and exhortation to adopt responsible ESG approaches. Read the essay here.

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

About

Tom Morrison, who died in 2014, was an active member and ex-President of The Institute and a leading light in the Institute’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.

Why enter?

Governance professionals worldwide are increasingly called upon to help organisations perform optimally and to achieve sustainability. The Tom Morrison Essay Prize encourages new thinking and recognises original approaches to governance.

Winning will give you recognition among your peers as a thought leader and impress your boss and future employers. You will also be financially better off. There is a top prize of £1000 and a runner-up prize of £500.

Entry information

  • All essays must address the proposed question.
  • Entry to the competition is only open to students (The Institute 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.
  • The Institute  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 2020.

Terms and conditions

Judging criteria

Essays are judged on:

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

The judges 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.

Previous winners

2019

Essay question:

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.

FIRST PLACE – LEONORA RAE

The winner of the 2019 Tom Morrison Essay Prize met the brief by looking at the role of the company secretary in a holistic manner, dividing the position into two categories. The first being to consider the intangible elements of the position, and the second being the social conscience of the organisation. In her essay, Leonora analysed minute taking, shareholder engagement, board automation and emotional intelligence. Read the essay here.

SECOND PLACE – HARRY MATTHEWS

The 2019 runner-up explored how technology has aided the evolution of the company secretarial role to encompass a wider range of duties. In his essay, Harry examined the benefits, opportunities, risks and threats of technological advancements on the profession in the context of their impact on governance. Read the essay here.

Ceremony images - 2019

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

2018

2018 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?’

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.

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, which has hosted a dinner for the winners of the Tom Morrison Essay Prize for the past few years. 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 The Institute to a standing ovation.

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