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Company secretary shake-up: How the role has changed
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Company secretary shake-up: How the role has changed

Sydney street

Greater public scrutiny and the need for increased compliance regulation as a result of the recent banking royal commission have shaped the role of the company secretary going forward.

According to the Mahlab Report 2019, company secretaries are no longer acting in the administrative servant’s role due to an increase in responsibilities around encouraging better governance and compliance throughout the company and at its board levels.

“The role of the company secretary has expanded to add value and, among other things, includes taking a more proactive role in delivering information to the board and initiating relevant topics for agendas,” the report noted.

In line with previous trends, the report added 2019 was a positive year for those in the company secretary role as a result of the regulatory environment changes and greater demand for robust corporate governance in listed and non-listed corporate spaces.

Over the last year, several senior roles were created by companies seeking stronger resources to better support the CEO and the board. In larger ASX-listed companies, there is often a large team of corporate secretaries, compared to the smaller and mid-sized companies where figures range from around one to three professionals.

According to Mahlab, there have been several companies that have created separate compliance and risk roles, “reflecting the complex and expanding regulatory burden.”

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To manage increased regulation burdens, company secretaries with appropriate skills are in demand, particularly if they hold legal qualifications and experience.

“This requires a strong understanding of the business and its strategic direction and a healthy appreciation of risk and learning agility. Soft skills, the ability to collaborate and work with stakeholders including synergistically with the legal team are important,” it said.

In publicly listed companies, the report noted the salary of company secretaries based in Sydney and Melbourne could sit anywhere between $200,000 to $490,000.

In non-publicly listed companies, this range sits around $130,000 to $320,000. “Salary bands for company secretaries are broad,” the report said, adding that salary bands depend on background and experienced, individual, size of the organisation and its secretarial function, sector and level of management and responsibilities.

While dedicated compliance and risk functions created a more robust compliance and risk capabilities, “it can also blur responsibilities.” Companies are requiring secretaries have a strong collaboration with the compliance, risk and legal functions.

However, despite this job demand, most company secretaries reported they are under-resourced, with some adding they had to share administrative support resources.

This extends to the new resources company secretaries are undertaking: “There is an overwhelming portion of company secretaries working with software programmes to ensure efficiencies in company secretarial processes and increasingly more company secretaries are producing notices for the CEO and the board rather than a hard copy,” it said.

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