How can company secretaries make the most of technology in 2019?

2019

With a role steeped in tradition, the company secretary may not be the first person you think of when you consider the adoption of technology.

A recent survey supported this, with technology take-up among company secretaries shown as being inconsistent. While 62% use it for admin (board packs or electronic filing), just 14% make use of available innovation for other tasks, as we reported in a recent blog.

For company secretaries, technology has the potential to make transformative changes in efficiency. This is important in a role where expectations are changing and responsibilities increasing – as evidenced in the recently updated UK Corporate Governance Code, which says that the company secretary is ‘responsible for advising the board on all governance matters’.

This advisory role extends the frequently-held view of the cosec as a largely administrative resource, although, as a recent report from Grant Thornton notes, ‘there remains a legacy perception of the role…as one associated with company law and administration, rather than a key shaper of an organisation’s governance framework’.

An increasingly challenging role

These expanding expectations of the company secretary are evolving in tandem with an ever-more complex regulatory landscape. Like compliance professionals, cosecs need to keep abreast of new legislation and approaches if they are to be valued advisers to their boards.

As we noted in our blog on the changing role of the company secretary, ‘governance has taken on increasing importance in the aftermath of the global banking crisis…Often, this increased governance responsibility falls to the company secretary. A role that – as the “secretary” part of the name suggests – was initially more clerical, is growing ever-more strategic’.

Using technology to support governance

This governance aspect of the role is one that can particularly benefit from innovative approaches.

Compliance technologies can help to create regulator-approved audit trails, ensure non-approved materials aren’t issued in error, and enable accurate, up-to-date content to be lifted into compliant document templates.

Many of the benefits we outline in our blog looking at how technology can help Compliance teams could equally well apply to company secretaries.

Growing pressure on efficiency

As with all areas of the business, there is a constant emphasis on making company secretarial processes more efficient and effective – and of course, the way you prepare for and manage board meetings has a direct impact on the efficiency of some of your firm’s most expensive assets; your board members.

Technology can also help here. Our blog on briefing your members effectively for meetings has tips on ensuring your directors get what they need to make meetings as good a use of time as possible.

Many boards, and the cosecs who support them, have found that using board portal technology helps to streamline the board pack production process, as well as producing a more professional end result.

If you go down this route, make sure you choose a solution that will make your life easier. Select a user-friendly technology and identify a board portal provider that will invest in your future.

Ensuring the highest levels of security

Of course, greater use of technology brings its own challenges, not least the need for cyber-vigilance.

We’ve explored before the fact that embracing portal technology for your board packs can improve corporate governance – for instance, by avoiding the need for sensitive corporate information to be sent in the post or over insecure email servers.

If you are moving towards a digital boardroom, there are many steps you can take to make sure your approach is secure. The best providers will have highly-secure solutions that harness the latest innovations to ensure the safety of your information.

Embrace technology to support your evolving role

With expectations of the company secretary growing and shifting in line with changing business and regulatory priorities, you can use technology and innovation to support you in your evolving role.

To read more about the way the perceptions and responsibilities of the company secretary role are changing – and how you can capitalise on these changes – you can download our whitepaper, The evolving role of the company secretary. The whitepaper is free and you can get a copy from our resources library.

Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.

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