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Company secretaries continuing to raise standards in Irish boardrooms

Corporate governance is forever changing but The Chartered Governance Institute has the guidance and qualifications to keep you informed, writes Siobhán Maguire.

Under company law in Ireland, every company must have a company secretary. This is where The Chartered Governance Institute in Ireland can help with a focus on making sure that all governance matters of a company are kept in check and monitored to the highest of standards.

But what does a company secretary do? According to John Burns, Business Development Manager, Ireland, the role is an essential part of corporate life for PLCs, law and accountancy firms, not-for-profit organisations, state boards and fund and regulated companies.

“Corporate governance is about maintaining and elevating the highest standards in the structures and procedures used to manage a company, which is controlled by that company’s board of directors,” he said. “That’s what The Chartered Governance Institute does in Ireland. With a membership of over 750 chartered secretaries and affiliate members, many of whom work across governance, risk and compliance, it’s the only professional membership body able to award chartered status to company secretaries and other professionals working in the field of governance.”

The Chartered Governance Institute in Ireland currently also has a healthy pipeline of over 200 students, reflecting the work done in highlighting the profession to prospective student members and their parents. A strong selling point is that on qualification it’s possibly the only profession that directly prepares a graduate for life at the boardroom table, a great start for someone starting out in the corporate world.

“Understanding the multi-faceted role of the company secretary and how this is constantly changing is a matter of importance in the world of corporate governance,” said Burns. “The company secretary of old sat in a boardroom full of men humbly taking the minutes and being quiet. Now the company secretary is much more of a governance advisor, advising the board on the latest governance matters and best practice. Also, worth noting is that almost 70 per cent of these students and trainees in Ireland are female.

Legislation, such as the 2014 Companies Act, along with the dynamic legal interpretation of new and existing legal rules, means that there’s an ongoing and mandatory need for information, training and access to specialist knowledge in this area, along with ensuring compliance with worldwide compliance standards.

“This is what the Chartered Governance Institute in Ireland provides,” said Burns. “One of my challenges in my role is that I spend a fair bit of time in the colleges and encouraging graduates about the role of a company secretary and how they can take it on as a career choice.”

The organisation, part of the worldwide Chartered Governance Institute, was formerly known as the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA) but following lengthy consultation it was felt that a name change would clarify the multi-faceted undertakings of the organisation. This name change took place in September 2019.

Salvador Nash, President, The Chartered Governance Institute, Ireland, said there are myriad courses run by the institute to keep members informed on the latest happenings in corporate governance.

“Corporate governance never stands still,” he said. “Each year we run many CPD courses, training events, seminars, social events and of course our Chartered Governance Institute Ireland annual conference”.

The institute runs a conference annually for members to keep them posted on changes in the world of corporate governance. Each conference features several interactive panels and workshops, and inspirational keynote speakers. Delegates also have several opportunities to engage with the process of integrating current issues into their firm’s strategy, processes and communications.

One of the ultimate aims of corporate governance is to gain public confidence in companies and how they operate. The Chartered Governance Institute provides a chartered governance qualification and ongoing training to professionals who operate and advise boards on corporate governance matters.

Said Nash:” There’s never been a better time to be a company secretary in Ireland”.

For further information visit icsa.org.uk/Ireland/qualify

Salvador Nash is President of the Chartered Governance Institute in Ireland and Head of Company Secretarial at KPMG, Dublin.

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