The Evolving Role of the Company Secretary: Navigating New Challenges and Opportunities

The role of the corporate secretary has been a foundational part of organizational governance for decades, but modern approaches to the position involve taking on a wide range of responsibilities in addition to supporting corporate governance. 

That sort of shift presents some great opportunities for skilled secretaries to elevate their careers and make a lasting impact on the company, but if you want to guarantee that your corporate secretary to thrive in their new, redefined role, you must help them overcome a few hurdles along the way. 

With that in mind, let’s examine the four emerging responsibilities that today’s company secretaries are expected to fulfill and highlight three key challenges that have arisen as a result. 

Beyond Corporate Governance: 4 Emerging Responsibilities of the Corporate Secretary

In many organizations, the corporate secretary will be involved with the following duties:

1. Compliance Management

Compliance management has always been challenging, but it has become even more so in recent years due to the sheer number of regulatory changes that have come about. From broad legislation like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to ever-shifting industry-specific requirements, your corporate secretary certainly has their work cut out for them. 

As your organization’s primary compliance officer, they ensure your business adheres to the latest in industry standards, regulations, and laws. They stay apprised of the most recent corporate charters and by-laws as well, all to insulate the organization from undue regulatory and reputational risks.

2. Corporate Advising

In some businesses, the company secretary may also wear the hat of a corporate advisor, which makes perfect sense, as they are already deeply integrated with all of the company’s dealings. As such, they can provide board members with some unique perspectives and insights. 

When serving in such a capacity, the company secretary can provide advice on a wide range of topics, including risk management, compliance, and corporate governance. In many organizations, the corporate secretary not only advises but assists in training new directors as well. From providing direct support to aiding the development of new educational programs, secretaries can often find themselves deeply ingrained in a company’s business continuity strategy. 

3. Organization

Company secretaries are often involved in the process of planning and executing various types of meetings, including committee, shareholder, and board meetings, which, admittedly, is not a new function of the corporate secretary. Be that as it may, the way that they carry these tasks out has changed greatly over the last few years.

Most notably, video conferencing technology has become much more prevalent. As such, the corporate secretary must plan meetings in a way that meshes with the board's schedule and ensures that everyone has received the appropriate meeting link or digital invitation. 

If your organization has a user-friendly communication platform, organizing meetings can be a frictionless process, but if not, the secretary will be the one picking up the slack by devoting extra hours to meeting planning processes. 

4. Record Keeping

The corporate secretary is also the steward of an organization’s essential business records. Again, like organization, record keeping is not necessarily a new responsibility, but it has evolved in the post-digital transformation era. Specifically, company secretaries now manage a much higher volume of records and interact with a broad array of document formats. 

Keeping up with all of these documents can be a full-time job all its own, especially if your organization is still relying on manual processes or disjointed software. To position your corporate secretary to succeed, you need a single source of truth that consolidates your records and promotes information security. 

Factors that Impede the Corporate Secretary from Fulfilling Their New Responsibilities 

Talented corporate secretaries will be able to rise to the occasion and embrace their additional set of responsibilities, but even the most dedicated individuals will face challenges as they grow into their new roles. These challenges are often linked to the following hurdles:

Antiquated Processes

To fulfill their role as a compliance management officer, record keeper, trainer, advisor, and organizer, the secretary will need to tap into data from across the organization, but that will undoubtedly be hard to come by when the business relies on manual data entry processes and old-school practices. 

As you expand the role of your company secretary, examine your current processes to ensure that they are efficient and conducive to fast-paced decision-making. Gather input from your executive team as well as your corporate secretary, as these individuals will, cumulatively, be able to provide actionable insights you can use to refine your processes and streamline your company’s decision-making. 

A Lack of the Right Tools

One of the biggest challenges your corporate secretary will face is a lack of the proper technologies and tools. When your secretary is tasked with a narrow set of responsibilities, they can likely fulfill them with one or two applications, but the modern, multifaceted secretary needs a dynamic solution that includes governance, compliance, and data management capabilities.

If your tech is antiquated, you need to upgrade your technology before asking your corporate secretary to take on so many additional responsibilities. Investing in an all-in-one corporate entity management platform is the most pragmatic approach, as it will provide the biggest return and support a wide range of business functions. 

Misaligned Resources and Teams

The corporate secretary can’t take on all of their responsibilities alone, no matter how talented they may be. To support them, make sure your human resources and other teams are all in alignment. Otherwise, your secretary will end up overworked and suffer from burnout. 

As you realign your teams and resources, ensure that everyone knows what functions the corporate secretary performs and implement policies that govern information sharing practices to prevent friction between them and department heads. 

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