11 November 2019 by Sonia Sharma
The company secretary at Beach & Associates talks about her career pathway and how her role has changed
In order to deliver a governance framework suitable to the group, I needed to undertake a gap analysis of the current framework. This highlighted the areas where further development was required. I then needed to understand the culture of the organisation, and the current infrastructure.
I worked closely with the group’s directors and senior management team to formulate a framework that sets out the structure of the organisation and establishes clear parameters for roles and responsibilities.
Work is still underway, and I continue to review reporting lines and the flow of information between the boards and the group’s subsidiaries. There is no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to governance. My approach draws on my previous experiences and focuses on developing and enhancing the good practices within the organisation.
I completed my LLM in 2012 at Birkbeck College, University of London. At the time I was working in the charity sector supporting adults with mental health issues and learning difficulties. The LLM gave me a profound understanding of the hardship and prejudices faced by individuals. It explored the implications and impacts caused to human rights as a result of judicial systems and corporate practices. I started to explore the latter in more detail and began learning about corporate governance and corporate social responsibility. My interest in governance within the commercial sector grew, and I was fortunate to have secured my first governance role shortly after the completion of my studies.
The ever-changing regulatory and legislative landscape can be challenging, particularly when applying it to a complex legal structure. The application of global governance within a group and the broader scope for directors and board accountability are some of the key challenges that I’m focused on.
Part of my role will be to simplify and streamline the flow of information across the group. I will also be responsible for preparing and maintaining the corporate governance policies to be applied across the several jurisdictions within the group – an understanding of global practices is critical to ensure the policies can be easily implemented.
I believe the role has changed considerably and is still changing. There is greater appreciation of the company secretary’s role in ensuring that the company is maximising its responsibilities to its stakeholders.
The standard internal administration function, which has always been a key element to the role, is no longer the duty that defines the company secretary. Now with an increasing focus on culture, governance and risk and compliance, the company secretary is a key advisory facilitator, offering strategic guidance. The perception of a company secretary will continue to change and the role as a strategic influencer will continue to be recognised.
The change is also reflected in the efforts made by The Chartered Governance Institute to enhance and elevate governance professionals. The change of name to the Institute will help to reflect the breadth of our role and provide greater global awareness of our profession.
I would encourage those at the beginning of their career to start a five-year plan, setting out key objectives. This helps to establish a sense of direction.
There are a lot of great initiatives available, via the Institute and other affiliated groups that can grant you access to events, webinars, networking sessions and even attending AGMs. All are great opportunities to learn and explore.
I joined the Worshipful Company of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators mentoring programme and was paired with Shirley Creed, Dell’s previous group company secretary. The programme was really useful and helped build my confidence in the profession.
The profession is growing, and there are a lot of amazing company secretaries to meet and share experiences with.
We have done the journey that you’re embarking on, so networking can be used to gain advice and useful tips.