Spread your wings

Written by
Charis Evans
The Chartered Governance Institute

31 Jan 2019

31 Jan 2019 • by Charis Evans

Make the most of international careers opportunities in governance

ICSA Chartered status is your passport to career opportunities across the world. It is the internationally recognised benchmark for governance professionals and a standard that is upheld across ICSA’s international divisions: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong/China, Malaysia, Singapore, Southern Africa, New Zealand, UK, Ireland and Associated Territories and Zimbabwe.

Employers in many jurisdictions recognise and welcome the proven skills and experience that Chartered Secretaries and Governance Professionals can bring to their organisation.

This is especially true of highly regulated sectors, such as financial services, where ICSA qualifications are often essential to an employee profile.

Benefits of moving

Living and working overseas can be personally and professionally rewarding. It’s an adventure full of new experiences with different people, cultures, climates and places. It often involves a change of pace and requires a steep learning curve as you adapt to your new life at home and work.

Working in another country can offer scope for professional development that is not readily available at home which broadens your expertise, interests and contacts. The fact that you have lived and worked in another jurisdiction not only shows professional breadth but can also demonstrate positive personal qualities such as curiosity and resilience to future employers.

It will also open up your horizons, with one successful international move potentially increasing your interest in and eligibility for another.

Robert Ford FCIS, Executive Director of Governance Gurus FZE which is headquartered in the UAE, explains how relocating abroad created new opportunities for him. ‘Living and working overseas enables you to gain corporate governance and company secretary expertise across different entity types and jurisdictions. Over the last 10 years in the Middle East I have had the opportunity to work with professional firms, family businesses, government entities, not-for-profit organisations and started two businesses. During this time, I led one transformation project spanning 13 regional countries and advised on governance structure, policies, processes, system and technology. I also reviewed and enhanced the governance framework and policies of a large group with an annual revenue of over $1 billion.

In my current role I provide regional and international organisations with governance and board advisory consulting and corporate training and regularly facilitate training on corporate governance, leadership and advanced company secretary skills in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Africa, India and Middle East countries. This is only
possible through the enhancement of my regional and international expertise in corporate governance, company secretarial practice and board effectiveness since living and working in Dubai’.

Whilst there are many benefits to spreading your wings in an international role, it can also be a daunting prospect, and the decision is not one to take lightly. Sarah Turnbull FCIS, Managing Director, Citco (Bermuda) Ltd, who moved from the UK to take up roles in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, advises that ‘it’s important to apply the same rigour to your own preparation that you would to your corporate governance.’

It is not simply a question of broadly weighing up the pros and cons. You need to be very well informed about your particular destination and its suitability for you and, if you have family and pets, for them too. Source Recruitment Specialists in Guernsey, make this point to candidates seeking to relocate. Steve Duckworth, Senior Recruiter, says, ‘Guernsey is a fantastic place to live and work with a thriving private equity industry and a wonderful environment. We encourage candidates to consider all the factors that will surround their new role as these will determine their happiness, well-being, and ultimately their success. For example, candidates need to take into account the differences between city life and living on a small island which has a different momentum, cost of living, and where the weather will influence their travel plans’.

Making connections

If you are planning to move overseas with your partner or young children, the range of considerations are significant. Claire Alves FCIS moved to Dubai from the UK when her daughter was 10 months old and needed to make lots of provisions to ensure that the move went smoothly. These ranged from details such as checking that the brand of baby formula that
her daughter was used to was available, to making arrangements to employ a nanny in England who was prepared to accompany the family for the first year of their relocation.

One of Claire’s top tips about planning to relocate is to contact with as many people as possible before you go. She says, ‘I’d recommend that you get in touch with other ICSA members and governance professionals through LinkedIn and the local branch, if one exists, as you will benefit from a network and the power of word of mouth. This can not only help you to find the right job but also to get the inside track on how to set yourself up in a new place, ranging from identifying the best areas to live in, to finding the good schools, to working out how to buy a car. Specialist websites such as expatwoman.com are also excellent sources of information.’

Keeping an open mind

Another important thing to do is to research the cost of living in your new destination, to make sure that the move will stack up for you financially. It is also advisable to give yourself a safety net, putting some cash aside just in case circumstances change through illness, political unrest or natural disaster and you need to come home.

Once you arrive, your learning will continue and it is extremely helpful to think about how you orient and present yourself.

Jenny Farrer FCIS, Senior Corporate Services Manager in Conyers Corporate Services (Bermuda) Limited, notes that, ‘Your skills and experience will be utilised in time, but for the first six months it is important to listen more than you speak and be flexible in your expectations of what will be required of you.’

You also need to consider how you behave socially too. Jenny says, ‘the best advice I was given was to avoid getting drawn into discussions about politics, economics or local culture. First impressions last and it’s useful to remember that you are a guest in someone else’s country. With an open mind and some humility you may be surprised at the new friends you make and skills that you learn’.

Top tips for preparing to relocate

  • Start with ‘why?’ Focus on what you want to experience and achieve by moving country. This will define the where, what and how of your relocation.
  • Visit your destination. Find out what it is really like and if you can see yourself living there.
  • Understand the legal system. Do you need a visa? What will your rights be as an employee? Will your partner or spouse be able to work too? Should you register with your consulate?
  • Do your sums. Research the cost of living and tax regime in your proposed country to make sure that the move will be financially viable.
  • Start building a network. ICSA groups, LinkedIn and other forums will help you to access local intelligence and support.
  • Ask how your future employers can support your preparation and transition.

Useful links


The Chartered Governance Institute