The death of the Corporate Secretary

Is this the end of an era? Are we witnessing the end of the corporate secretary?
Is the profession becoming extinct in front of our eyes? 


We believe the profession is at a tipping point, and there are two fundamental aspects impacting the standing and reputation of the profession.  Have you noticed a decline in the availability of skilled chartered secretaries in their late twenties to early thirties? 

Industry experts have expressed concerns regarding the future outlook of the corporate secretary position. These observations bring attention to two significant issues that could impact the reputation and standing of this profession. The concerns, shared by many within the industry, shed light on potential challenges that may result in the decline or transformation of the corporate secretary role.

One primary concern revolves around the qualification process for aspiring chartered secretaries. There appears to be a noticeable decline in the number of skilled professionals in their late twenties to early thirties, and a lack of individuals with the necessary skills and experience to assume senior roles successfully. This decline seems to correlate with the introduction of postgraduate courses around ten years ago. Many candidates now prefer these courses over the traditional examination route. However, questions arise regarding the equivalence of training and the essential understanding of corporate practices that these courses provide. It is crucial to determine whether these courses adequately prepare graduates to succeed and contribute to the profession’s reputation within the industry and among peer professional bodies.

Another issue raised is the growing trend of merging the roles of company secretary and general counsel within large listed companies. It has been observed that approximately two-thirds of FTSE-100 listed companies have combined these positions, with some even appointing lawyers who lack the qualifications prescribed in the Companies Act 2006. This convergence poses challenges on multiple fronts. First, it restricts senior chartered secretaries from operating at the highest level, limiting their career advancement. Second, it obstructs the progression of talented individuals at lower levels of the corporate secretary career path. The combination of these factors creates a less appealing landscape for professionals within the field. The argument is made that the roles of General Counsel and Company Secretary require distinct skill sets and loyalties. General Counsel often owe loyalty to the Chief Executive and executive management, while Company Secretaries have a fiduciary responsibility to the Chair, Board, and ultimately, stakeholders of a company.

Taken together, these concerns underscore potential threats to the corporate secretary role. The dwindling pool of qualified candidates and the limited number of “stand-alone” positions within the FTSE-100 present challenges for senior professionals. The risk is that talented individuals may choose alternative career paths, leading to a gradual decline or confinement of the chartered secretary profession primarily to professional service firms.

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It is imperative to address these challenges promptly to ensure the continued relevance and prominence of the corporate secretary role. Discussions and initiatives are needed to evaluate the validity of the raised concerns and develop strategies that preserve the integrity and attractiveness of the profession.

The future of the corporate secretary role hangs in the balance, with potential implications for talent attraction, retention, and career advancement within the field. As industry observers raise the alarm, proactive measures will determine whether the role’s significance can be safeguarded in the ever-evolving corporate landscape.

Do we need to govern our own profession better?

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