The Evolution of Company Secretaries: Navigating Governance in a Dynamic Landscape

Nadine Conlon, President, The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland

In the past decade, the role of the company secretary has undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving from a technical specialist to a strategic facilitator. This shift reflects an increasing emphasis on governance and regulatory compliance across all industries, indicating a sustained demand for adept professionals capable of harmonising legal obligations with organisational objectives.

Moreover, this heightened demand has spurred the expansion of governance roles beyond traditional secretarial functions, particularly within larger organisations.

Effectively serving as a company secretary or governance professional entails empowering the board to articulate and accomplish the organisation’s strategic aims. This necessitates a blend of specialised expertise, ethical principles, emotional intelligence, and contextual understanding of the organisation and its broader environment.

Governance Challenges

At this point in time, governance professionals grapple with an array of challenges reflecting the dynamic landscape of corporate and non-corporate governance, stemming from diverse sources such as evolving regulations and legislation, heightened stakeholder expectations, and technological advancements. They also include emergent issues like environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations.

In Ireland, notable challenges include resource allocation within governance teams, navigating ESG imperatives, integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into boardroom practices, complying with increased regulatory frameworks like the Individual Accountability Framework (IAF), enhancing board reporting mechanisms, and managing subsidiary governance.

Ongoing Regulatory Changes

Regarding regulatory updates, the foremost change in 2024 is the implementation of the IAF, which mandates clear delineation of responsibility and decision-making within senior management of regulated firms. The IAF imposes legal obligations on key personnel to prevent regulatory breaches.

Demand for qualified company secretaries and governance professionals in Ireland currently outstrips supply across all sectors, sectors including; financial services, corporate, not-for-profit, public, and sporting.

Attaining chartered status through institutions like The Chartered Governance Institute Institute UK & Ireland is pivotal, affirming competence and readiness for roles of significant responsibility. We are currently working with new and existing third level education partners to increase awareness among students of the career opportunities available to them to become a company secretary/governance professional which will increase the numbers of available candidates within the market over time.

Supports Available

The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland offers a suite of benefits, including access to global and local networks, technical resources, professional development opportunities, mentoring programs, and advocacy platforms.

With a membership base of nearly 40,000 worldwide, approximately 14,500 alone are based in Ireland and UK, and associated territories, such as the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East.

For 130 years the Institute has served as a cornerstone for governance excellence, fostering agile and strategic leaders adept at steering organisations towards sustainable value creation across diverse sectors.

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