Discover Governance: A Fellows’ perspective

Last month, we hosted a webinar on how you can use your law or business degree to start your career in governance. If you missed the webinar, you can watch it again, here.

The webinar demonstrated how a law or business degree provides you with the foundation you need to be a company secretary or governance professional and how it can equip you with the skills you need to start a career that spans multiple sectors. Whether you are a sixth form student, university student or a recent graduate – or you support those who are – we can introduce you to a career path that is rewarding and impactful. Our series of blogs will answer your questions, in particular, from university students or recent graduates looking to find out more about a career in governance or the role of the company secretary.

This blog will answer the questions put forward to a Fellow of The Chartered Governance Institute.

How easy is it to move between sectors?

A vital benefit of the Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme is that it teaches knowledge which is applicable across many, if not all, sectors. There are likely to be sector-specific governance practices. Still, many of these are based on good corporate governance which the Qualifying Programme understands – for example, most sector-specific codes of governance are based to some extent on the UK Corporate Governance Code. There may be specific regulatory requirements to learn for a particular sector. Still, much of this information is available online so can be learned to prepare for and follow a move between sectors. And in relation to experience, the primary focus of Chartered governance professionals roles vary between sectors, but core skills are transferable. The majority of Chartered governance professionals establish themselves in one sector at some point within their careers because that enables the development of real expertise, a reputation and a network, and therefore progression to senior roles, but a successful move between sectors is certainly possible, and many achieve this.

What advice do you have for governance professionals moving from the public to the private sector?

The focus of governance professionals role in the public and private sectors are usually quite different. In the public sector, governance professionals are often very involved in supporting boards’ meetings, advising the chair and chief executive, annual reporting, governance development and other similar work. Relatively few public sector organisations require support with company administration (though some have trading subsidiaries), which is key to working in many private sector roles. A move between these sectors might, therefore, be best early in a Chartered governance professionals career when employers are likely to recognise a desire for a breadth of experience. A Chartered governance professional may, of course, choose to move back to the public sector after gaining suitable expertise. However, a possible exception to this is a move to an advisory role in the private sector, perhaps with a professional services firm, where a governance professional may be advising public sector organisations on governance and related matters for which experience in such organisations would be directly relevant.

Is there a significant difference between governance in the corporate and NHS sectors?

There are differences between governance in the two sectors, but there are similarities too. NHS hospital trusts are required to comply with a code of governance which is based upon the UK Corporate Governance Code. However, the NHS code is specific to governance structures and practices in that sector, and it recognises the role of a range of external stakeholders. There are substantial differences in governance structures and practices – for example, the composition of boards, the frequency and nature of board and committee meetings and the significant influence of regulatory requirements in the NHS (which impact governance).

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