The Sunday Business Post
March 20, 2016
Conor Ryan, president of the Irish Region of the ICSA - the professional body for governance – argues that governance professionals are a business necessity.
The recent financial crisis has left the Irish corporate sector with some hard-learned lessons, including recognition of the vital role that diligent corporate governance and compliance plays in keeping the economy, and the businesses that underpin it, in robust health.
As a result, the regulatory environment is now more sophisticated and more challenging, with the new Companies Act 2014 placing a greater range of obligations on companies and introducing stricter punishments for non-compliance, including fines of up to €500,000 or a term of imprisonment of up to ten years.
Although intentions are excellent, in reality, conforming to the complex requirements of the act can represent significant difficulties, which is one of the reasons why so many Irish companies are enlisting the expert guidance of ICSA: The Governance Institute to help them through this critical transition.
ICSA has cultivated a deep understanding of all areas of governance and compliance and has been helping companies to implement and maintain frameworks of high-quality governance for 125 years.
The current corporate regulations have turned this helpful good-practice guidance into a business necessity. A fundamental provision of the act is the lawful requirement for all companies to have a company secretary who must be skilled and resourced to the level required for the fulfilment of their duties. Failure to ensure sufficient skillsets and adequate resourcing will constitute a breach of the act for which all company directors will be legally responsible.
As the home of good governance, ICSA is the ideal body for supporting and strengthening the skills of company secretaries.
ICSA provides a range of training programmes and qualifications, including the Chartered Secretaries Qualifying Scheme (CSQS) - the main qualification needed to achieve chartered status. A joint certificate in company secretarial law and practice with the Law Society is also on offer. There are a number of other courses to ensure that company secretaries and other governance, compliance and risk professionals are furnished with the knowledge and skills to assist them with the key duties of their role.
ICSA guidance does not end with a qualification. Members continue to avail of ICSA’s dedicated support with access to an insight-rich knowledge base, as well as training, educational conferences and networking events.
Furthermore, a comprehensive understanding of the corporate sector as a whole enables ICSA to cater to companies of all shapes and sizes. In addition to support for larger companies, ICSA offers training and resources that perfectly respond to the requirements of smaller organisations and charities where the company secretary does not have to be fully qualified, but nevertheless must be sufficiently resourced. In these organisations, it is often the company secretary along with the CEO who are the main drivers of good governance, and ICSA is available to offer support.
Fundamentally, ICSA’s approach is driven by the recognition that fully trained and resourced company secretaries are an invaluable asset to their companies rather than a mere nod to the rules and regulations. They are a solid source of advice, experience and management support.
For companies, having access to the services of ICSA means being able to depend on industry-leading external guidance whenever it is required while also developing an internal source of expertise that will drive high-quality governance and compliance from within. This will ultimately stand the company in good stead far beyond the challenges dominating 2016. Conversely, companies which choose to ignore or put off governance and compliance matters will likely find that those challenges rapidly become insurmountable.