COMPLEXITY OF THE governance role and lawyers moving to in-house governance positions has boosted the proportion of lawyers enrolling in Chartered Secretaries Australia’s (CSA) Graduate Diploma in Applied Corporate Governance.
Lawyers now make up 35 per cent of enrolments, up from 29 per cent two years ago — course enrolments have risen by 30 per cent overall over the same period. “Gone are the days when governance professionals and company secretaries could learn on the job,” CSA’s director of education and training, Dr John Nelson said.
“The complexity of the corporate and regulatory environment has meant that they need a good understanding not only of the relevant law, but also of the financial and commercial issues facing their organisations.”
He said the graduate diploma addressed broader gaps in the skills required for governance roles — particularly in the areas of governance, compliance, risk management, corporate administration and financial management.
Nelson said enrolments had also been driven by the growing number of lawyers who were looking to in-house governance roles as a path to senior management. “Nowadays boards and senior executives rely on company secretaries and governance practitioners not only to advise them on their duties and obligations, but also to shape organisation-wide policies and structures.”
Jane Wilder, who works as company secretary for two ASX-listed companies, decided to complete the course when the incumbent company secretary at her previous employer retired, and she was offered the role. An experienced corporate solicitor, Wilder, who now works for for medical device company Ventracor Limited and electronic payment systems company Customers Limited, felt she needed more tuition on company secretarial practice and governance.
“As legal counsel I was confident in the legal aspects of the role but I felt I needed more practical training when it came to managing the compliance and governance obligations of an organisation,” she said.
Complying with the Corporations Act and the ASX Corporate Governance Council’s recommendations are among the factors that have broadened the company secretary’s role as adviser to the board, but “there is no definitive manual to instruct company secretaries on how to do it all”. “The course provided a great opportunity to reconcile effectively the theory of good governance with its practical application,” Wilder said.