Skills shortage in corporate governance means opportunities for career builders

A current shortage of qualified company secretaries in several key sectors is an ongoing challenge for corporate governance

Nadine Conlon, president, Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland

With corporate governance becoming increasingly challenging for businesses of all sizes, it’s vital that every board ensures they have the right skills and advice to navigate their way through changes in regulation, as well as the risks and opportunities posed by new technologies and markets. However, according to the Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland, a current shortage in adequately qualified company secretaries has posed issues for many companies – especially as the role of the company secretary has increased dramatically over the last few years.

“Over the last decade, the role of the company secretary has grown in scope from technical expert to strategic enabler,” commented Nadine Conlon, president, Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland. “Increased regulation and emphasis on governance across all sectors and organisations suggest that this trend will continue and that demand for skilled professionals who can balance regulatory compliance with their organisation’s commercial interests and social purpose will remain high. This increased demand has also stimulated growth in governance roles outside the traditional secretariat team in larger organisations.”

The role of the company secretary is varied and requires a strong skillset, said Conlon. “Being an effective company secretary and/or governance professional means enabling the board to set and achieve the strategic goals of the organisation. This requires mastery of specialist knowledge combined with strong values, emotional intelligence, and the ability to apply understanding in the particular context of the organisation and its wider environment.”

This skillset is becoming increasingly in demand as our business environment becomes ever more complex.

“The concerns of and pressures on corporate and non-corporate bodies are constantly evolving in response to the external environment,” explained Conlon. “That pressure for change comes from many sources including new regulation and legislation, competition, shareholders, customers, activists, and broader public expectations, all of which fall within the governance professionals’ remit.

“Some of the current key challenges for company secretaries in Ireland include resourcing their governance and company secretarial teams; changes in ESG, including Europe’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive; introducing AI into the boardroom; increased regulation including the Individual Accountability Framework; and subsidiary governance.”

Of these key challenges, Conlon singles out one as being particularly challenging for governance professionals. “The biggest change on the regulatory side is the introduction of the Individual Accountability Framework (IAF). The IAF requires in-scope firms to outline clearly where the responsibility and decision -making lie within the firm’s senior management. IAF imposes a legal duty on pre-approval controlled function (PCF) to take reasonable steps to avoid the in-scope firms breaching the IAF regulation.”

The role of the company secretary is varied and requires a strong skill set

For professionals wishing to explore the world of corporate governance, the shortage in talent offers plenty of opportunity to build a career in this increasingly important area. “Currently there is a significant shortage of qualified company secretaries and governance professionals in the Irish market across all sectors,” Conlon commented. “These sectors include financial services, corporate, not-for-profit, public and sporting.

“Chartered status is the benchmark for company secretaries and governance professionals in Ireland. It shows that you have the knowledge, skills and experience to take on a job with significant and wide-ranging responsibilities.

“The Chartered Governance Institute is currently working with existing and new third-level education partners to increase awareness among students of the career opportunities available to them to become a company secretary and a governance professional, which will increase the numbers of available candidates within the market over time.”

The secret, Conlon says, like every facet of corporate governance, knowledge and education, are key to success, and no governance professional can ever stop learning.

“We are the home of good governance,” Conlon said. “The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland qualifies, supports, inspires and champions people working in governance by providing recognition, standards and guidance to individuals and employers. We are the only institute that offers the designations of Chartered Governance Secretary and Chartered Governance Professional and have been doing so for over 130 years.

“Chartered membership enhances your professional standing by providing global recognition of your skills and capabilities. People who choose to study with us have access to local and international networks of governance professionals; professional development opportunities, key events and training, and a mentoring programme. To stay up to date with all developments, members have access to regular news, technical guidance, research and consultations, as well as an informative and engaging magazine. There’s even individual help in terms of a governance helpline for individual guidance and support.”

Having been in existence for 130 years, the Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland has long been a voice for championing the profession and their members to government, regulators and employers. And it’s quite a powerful voice – the global institute has almost 40,000 members and students worldwide, while the Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland has approximately 14,500 members and students, who are located in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and associated territories, which include the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East.

With such a heritage in governance education, it’s no surprise that some of the leading voices in the area of expertise are members. “Just as governance has evolved in the 130 years that the Institute has been in existence, so have the professionals who deliver it,” said Conlon. “The secretaries and administrators from whom the Institute drew its name for nearly 130 years are now agile and strategic leaders of governance, helping boards to focus on long-term value creation and sustainability in sectors across the board, from the corporate sector to the charity, education, health and sport sectors.”

The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland’s Annual Conference takes place on 22 May 2024 in the Printworks, Dublin Castle. More details can be found at www.cgi.org.uk