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20 March 2018

Why there's never been a better time to be a company secretary

The improvement in the economy in recent years and the subsequent rise in business activity is welcome, but it has brought with it a number of challenges, including a shortage of company secretaries to fill the many governance roles currently being advertised within the public and private sectors.  Organisations in all areas are competing to attract company secretaries from a limited pool of qualified people.

Challenges for company secretaries

Ruairí Cosgrove, President of the Irish Region of ICSA: The Governance Institute (“ICSA”) believes that the challenge posed by the shortage of qualified company secretaries will be overcome, but that it will take time.  This is why the Irish Region is placing a greater emphasis on informing and educating students in third level colleges about the excellent career prospects for company secretarial and governance professionals in Ireland.  Cosgrove notes that “Demand is increasing for skilled governance professionals as a result of the continuing focus on regulation and additional requirements triggered by the introduction of new legislation.   The soon to be established central register of ultimate beneficial owners and the imminent commencement of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations will further increase this demand.  Career prospects and opportunities for qualified company secretaries have never been so strong.  Private practice, plcs and the funds industry all need qualified company secretaries and Brexit may increase this need further with more companies setting up or expanding their operations in Ireland.”

Qualifying as a company secretary

From a qualifications perspective, imminent changes to the ICSA qualifying scheme mean that students now have a more straightforward route to qualifying as a company secretary.  “They are supported by an active Institute ensuring that the learning experience is practical and fit for purpose,” Cosgrove says, adding that “the introduction of new subjects to the syllabus such as Board Dynamics and Risk Management will ensure that students gain a modern, relevant qualification that will equip them to lead the governance and compliance agenda within the boardroom and the wider organisation.”

2018 Annual Conference

The flagship event for governance professionals in Ireland is the ICSA Annual Conference, which will be held on Thursday 17 May in the Printworks, Dublin Castle.  The focus of this year’s conference is ‘Leading Board Development’.  Delegates will hear Domhnal Slattery, CEO of Avalon give the opening address on thought leadership.  The morning session will see Professor Andrew Kakabadse and Jennifer Sundberg lead discussions on conflict in the boardroom and the optimal content for board packs respectively.   Other speakers on the day include the Charities Regulator, John Farrelly, who will share his perspective on how unethical behaviour across the charity sector is being tackled and the important role of the trustee.  Gillian Harford from AIB will examine diversity in the boardroom and psychologist Aidan Kearney will summarise how to improve organisational and individual effectiveness.

A busy afternoon sees delegates having a choice of technical and personal development sessions to attend before our closing speaker takes to the podium to share his leadership experience drawn from his sporting and business background.

Take a look at the programme and book your place.

2018 and beyond

Throughout 2018, ICSA will continue to support the learning and development needs of its growing membership through monthly CPD events.  The Institute is delivering more training courses and events for members and students this year.  Ruairí Cosgrove is of the strong view that ICSA must continue to ensure that company secretaries and governance professionals are supported and assisted in their professional roles as company secretaries through ongoing education and training delivered through courses and organised events.

Cosgrove predicts that 2018 will be a busy and stimulating year for its members and he promises that ICSA: The Governance Institute will continue to champion the value of governance professionals and good governance practice in Ireland in the years ahead.

This article was published as part of the Corporate Governance, Company Law & Company Secretarial Services Special Report in the Sunday Business Post on 18th March 2018.