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Could you convince someone to become a company secretary?

20 August 2015 by John Burns

Last Wednesday, August 12th, was the day the Leaving Cert results came out. But how many students will be thinking of a career as a company secretary? Probably not many because our profession is one of those hidden gems (or we think so anyway!) that far more people would take up if only they know about it. That’s part of the reason ICSA is so keen on raising the profile of the profession, as we can see that there’s already a shortage of good, qualified, company secretaries…and we believe that shortage is only going to get greater. So what better time to get into a great profession – with more or less guaranteed employment!

If you’re reading this you are more likely to already be a company secretary. If you are, have you ever spoken to young people about the job you do and have you ever encouraged them to follow the CS path? If not, why not?

Here are some crib notes that you can use to answer their most basic questions. For more detailed information you should obviously send them to the www.icsa.ie website.

  • What do you do? We are governance professionals who support and advise the boards of organisations in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. We help directors and trustees to keep organisations true to their strategic purpose and ensure they operate successfully within the law.
  • We combine bits of the legal, financial and management roles within an organisation and our work is essential to the smooth running and performance of organisations.
  • The company secretary is sometimes called ‘the keeper of secrets’. This is why becoming a company secretary is seen as being a fast track to get into an organisation’s boardroom, the heart of any organisation. Company secretaries are trusted with privileged information and access to the board early in their careers.
  • A good company secretary has to be skilled in managing relationships and boardroom dynamics
  • Some of the core tasks that company secretaries are responsible for, such as AGMs and the production of annual reports, only take place once a year. Others, such as share issues or corporate takeovers, less frequently. These can involve pretty high stakes so an awful lot rides on the company secretary’s work.
  • There are many ways of becoming a company secretary. You can take a primary degree (law, commerce, business or economics would be good choices). After that you can do an ICSA accredited masters qualification.
  • Or you can start on the path to becoming a company secretary through professional qualifications, such as the Chartered Secretaries Qualifying Scheme (CSQS). There are no entry requirements for enrolment onto CSQS. The standard route for those students without a degree in a related subject, or for those without any degree at all, is to complete all eight modules. If you have a degree in law or finance you can apply for exemption from up to two modules, and if you also have up to five years’ appropriate experience post-qualifying, you can apply for exemption from as many as four modules.
  • Alternatively, if you’re a qualified lawyer or accountant and have more than five years’ post- qualifying experience, why not consider applying for the fast track professional route? If you meet the scheme’s entry requirements, you could find yourself exempt from all but two of the eight modules which form CSQS. Holders of a master’s degree may also be eligible for exemptions.