Holding one of the busiest positions in a business, the corporate secretary can be forgiven for focusing on only what is in front of them. Trying to deal with the constant barrage of requests for contracts, licenses, director information, compliance status, board papers, meeting requests and more can be challenging enough without adding the burden of proactive governance to the list.
And while many corporate secretaries are working to update organizational practices to bring them into the modern era – including through digitizing the corporate record and board operations – there is always room for improvement. The corporate secretary who seeks to be world class must ensure they leave time not only for proactivity, but for keeping up to date with the industry, with governance practices in general and with the technology that fuels the modern organization.
Keeping up to date with the industry
Thankfully, the modern era of corporate governance also brings with it plenty of opportunities to gain new knowledge and skills. At Diligent’s recent Modern Governance Roadshow events, panel speakers were asked how they keep up to date with the industry in which they work; the common answers revolved around doing plenty of reading, networking, attending events and undertaking external training.
Reading about industry trends
Whether it’s from respected trade publications and industry bodies or the newest corporate blogs, there is a plethora of information being published daily online to help the corporate secretary to stay in touch with trends. For instance, they can subscribe to newsletters and set aside a short amount of time every week to read the latest articles and papers, taking note of the most interesting insights that could help to improve upon modern practices.
Networking to build new relationships
This recommendation will no doubt strike fear into the hearts of introverts everywhere, but networking doesn’t have to be about walking into a room full of suited businessmen with a card in your hands. Modern networks can even be cultivated online by using social media – especially platforms such as LinkedIn – to follow thought leaders and take part in conversations. This can also help to grow your own personal brand, which can help you gain credibility both within your own organization and in the wider industry, too.
Attending events to hear about the latest practices
Conferences, webinars and breakfast sessions abound in every industry and are a good way to get a download of many industry trends and best practices in one place. It’s impossible to attend every event everywhere, so people should ask their network for recommendations of what they’ve found most useful in the past. They should try to attend a mixture of the big conferences and some of the smaller, more intimate sessions to see what suits them best.
Undertaking external training to keep skills up to date
Of course, continuing professional development is key to any role in any organization, but it’s especially important for the corporate secretary. As the guardian of the corporate record, the corporate secretary must improve upon modern practices by upskilling on a regular basis. Again, they should ask their networks for suggestions regarding the best-quality courses; industry bodies such as ICSA are always a good place to start, especially when seeking new qualifications.
Taking modern governance practices to the next level
All of the activities that help to keep people up to date with the wider governance and compliance industries will arm them with the latest in thinking and best practices – but those best practices will remain only aspirations unless corporate secretaries both embrace and instill modern practices in their own organizations.
The best of corporate secretaries’ modern governance practices today revolve around the digitization of governance. Corporate secretaries are taking best practices to the next level by getting the corporate record into a central repository to act as a single source of truth for all entity data. By doing so, they can enhance and elevate their role as an advisor to the board; having a real-time central source of truth for the entire group structure arms the corporate secretary with essential information to inform and sway business decisions.
Governance technology – such as entity management software and board portals – allows the corporate secretary to take on a more proactive and strategic role as the board’s advisor. Modern governance practices are improved upon through automation of manual, repetitive and everyday tasks, while functionality such as compliance calendars, reminders and workflows instill better data practices and can improve the compliance position across the group structure and across jurisdictions. All of this gives the corporate secretary more free time to be proactive, rather than reactive, about governance, improving overall practice.
Through using governance technology, the corporate secretary embraces modern practices and then improves upon them by taking the organization beyond mere entity management and into the realm of modern entity governance. An integrated entity governance solution fuels good governance practices across multiple business units, breaking down the silos that can hamper compliance and creating a single system of record for all the organization’s corporate governance needs.
Governance technology helps corporate secretaries to improve modern practices
This technology is far from science fiction – it’s here, now, and being utilized by best-in-class governance and compliance teams around the world. Corporate secretaries improve modern practices by not only using governance technology in their own operations, but by leading from the front to instill these improved modern practices across their organization.
There will, of course, be some resistance encountered. IT leaders can be nervous about the security of hosting the corporate record in the cloud, while senior leadership can be reluctant to let go of their tried-and-tested ways of working. Given that every company is unique, it is up to the corporate secretary to build the business case for entity management and board governance technology in their own organization. However, a robust case can be made for entity management software by showcasing the competitive edge that can be obtained from more streamlined and efficient operations, as well as better-quality entity data informing business strategy.
The business case can be improved when the corporate secretary shows the overall impact of such technology on the business. For example, when deploying Diligent Entities, the organization can gain access to the wider Governance Cloud, an all-in-one governance ecosystem featuring a seamlessly integrated entity management system, board portal and secure file-sharing platform. This improves the security of the corporate record by minimizing the risk of data leaks and improves its integrity by establishing that all-important single source of truth for the corporate record.