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Filling the gap

06 February 2019 by Simon Osborne

Filling the gap

The demand for company secretarial jobs across all sectors is increasing

2018 was a bumper year in terms of the number of company secretarial jobs coming to the market, with increased demand for visible and robust governance leading to augmented salaries across the board and greater recognition of company secretaries as the lynchpin in an increasingly governance minded world. While FTSE companies and regulated industries are the prime drivers of demand, growth is not just restricted to commercial organisations. Growth is every bit as evident within the public and not-for-profit sectors, with the latter seeing an increase in the number of senior roles.

In addition, private companies continue to recognise the benefits of employing a company secretary, and though not legally obliged to employ a company secretary in the same way that public companies are, many large private companies do so as a matter of course.

Attention has doubtless been focused by new corporate governance reporting requirements for listed and large private companies that are adding to the workload of secretariats and creating a need for people who understand the need for transparent and effective corporate governance.

Additionally, specialist knowledge is in demand, as evidenced by The Core Partnership’s The Company Secretary Market Survey 2018-19, which found that heavily regulated industries such as financial services are ‘increasingly seeking company secretaries with prior knowledge and exposure to industryterminologies and practices, often making entry difficult for candidates from other sectors’. That said, other recruiters such as DMJ have seen evidence that switching between sectors has become more common.

Brexit has not had an adverse effect on recruitment as the trend for greater regulation and strengthened corporate codes continues and good governance will be critical to the UK’s future competitiveness. The relocation of a number of financial services offices from London to Dublin is also fuelling growth in that market, at least for the time being.

Partial and full listings in the UK by overseas companies have seen companies seek full-time help from a dedicated company secretarial function. The interim market is also busy, with a premium paid for temporary workers at all levels, especially at the assistant company secretary level. Commercial change and intense corporate activity in the form of IPOs have fuelled growth and seen teams created over time.

Salaries have risen significantly at all levels across the whole of the UK in the past year, irrespective of sector and industry. With top-tier group company secretaries now commanding packages in excess of £220,000 in the UK according to the BWW Recruitment salary survey, now is an excellent time to be aiming for the number one seat if remuneration is a prime motivator.

Similarly, bonuses for assistant company secretaries in London and the south east have increased with many senior assistant company secretaries earning bonuses in the 30-40% bracket, particularly those working within financial services. Even those working at company secretarial assistant level outside London can expect handsome rewards with top quartile company secretarial assistants now able to earn in excess of £49,000.

All levels should expect to work hard for their money, however, as workloads for company secretarial departments have largely increased in the last year, while department sizes have not. With scope creep and workload intensifying, serious questions need to be raised about how sustainable this might be in the longer term.

That said, flexible working opportunities are rising across the UK, with 90% of people questioned for the DMJ salary survery 2018/2019 having access to flexible working. Most FTSE 100 offer flexible working, followed closely by not-for-profit and charity organisations. FTSE 250 and private companies seem to be more reluctant, but as attested by Rory Strong, Associate Director at DMJ in May 2018’s issue, flexible working has become one of the most cost-effective ways for an employer to retain and attract talent, as it buys loyalty and is a top priority for job seekers.

With the company secretarial role increasingly seen as a commercial one rather than a ‘poor relation’ focused on compliance, and estimates that there will be approximately 1,100-1,200 additional roles in the UK market over the coming 24 months, ICSA has launched a new Jobs Board - Jobs in Governance, which can be found at icsa.org.uk/jobs. Designed to support jobseekers looking for company secretarial and governance roles, recruiters and employers seeking to fill vacancies, graduates looking for trainee roles and governance practitioners trying to find voluntary roles as trustees, school governors and local councillors, it is the perfect tool to take full advantage of the current ebullience of the company secretarial jobs market.

Simon Osborne FCIS is CEO of ICSA: The Governance Institute

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