If you’re thinking Miss Moneypenny, then think again – don’t be fooled by the ‘secretary’ bit of the Company Secretary title – this role is not to be confused with a PA. The company secretary has a strategic position of considerable influence.
Company secretaries are great business all-rounders – they have a head for numbers, an eye for detail and are sticklers for accuracy. They know all about company law, constantly keeping up to date of legal requirements and advising the board on how to keep the company on the straight and narrow.
Salary & benefits
Salaries for company secretaries vary greatly, depending on the sector and type of organisation they work in.
Starting salaries for Trainee Company Secretaries range from £21,000 to £35,000.
Those who have progressed to the Company Secretary role can earn salaries between £81,000 and £170,000. Top Company Secretaries in FTSE 100 firms earning anything up to £320,000.
Hours for company secretaries are broadly standard business hours of 9-5pm although at certain times of the year they may be expected to come in earlier and leave much later, e.g. when preparing for an Annual General Meeting, annual report or board meeting, you’d be expected to work as long as needed to ensure the job is done on time.
The majority of a company secretary’s work is done in the office, but depending on the type of company you work for and where that company does business, there might be some travel required.
Although no specific degree is required for a career as a company secretary, degrees in law, finance, governance or business and administration will be a great benefit.
There are entry-level positions for those without a degree, but many employers might expect a trainee company secretary to be signed up to do a professional qualification with the Insititute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA).
To thrive in a company secretarial role, as well as a good head for numbers and an interest/knowledge in company law, you need to be an excellent communicator, have strong attention to detail, be able to write clearly and concisely, take in and translate large amounts of information, and be able to influence colleagues at the highest levels (both inside and outside of the organisation).
Furthermore, you will need to be professional, tactful, hardworking and extremely well organised. It’s important that a company secretary is ethical, diplomatic and independent – you’ll often act as a board confidante. Company secretaries also have access to confidential business information, so you have to be able to keep things under your hat!
Training & progression
Standard progression for company secretaries looks broadly like this:
Entry level: Trainee Company Secretary
Company Secretarial Assistant
Assistant Company Secretary
Deputy Company Secretary
Senior post: Company Secretary
Law, finance and governance are key subjects for company secretaries, so if you’ve a degree in one of these areas, you can go on training courses to ‘gen up’ on the other two areas, or all three if you’ve not got a degree in these subjects.
If you’re coming in as a trainee company secretary, a lot of employers will like you to sign up to a professional qualification with ICSA, the profession’s qualifying and membership body – either their Advanced Certificate in Corporate Governance, the full Chartered Secretaries Qualifying Scheme or one of their validated postgraduate university courses. A lot of organisations will offer financial support to undertake these qualifications.
Company secretaries need to keep abreast of changes in regulation, governance and legislation, so they’re expected to do continuous professional development (like attending training courses and conferences) throughout their career.