Company Secretaries: What sector should I work in?

by Mark Chambers on 12 December 2019
Company Secretaries: What sector should I work in?

Wondering how on earth to plan your Company Secretarial career? Wondering whether to work in-house or in professional services? There are a number of sectors to choose from with distinctive characteristics, so below I’ve summarised the main features, how they differ and some top tips. 

1.   PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

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What’s that?

Accountancy/law firms, company secretarial service providers, corporate service and company formation agencies that provide services for organisations or individuals at a fee.

 

Potential positives:

-Variety and breadth of experience where you may manage a multitude of structures and entity types.

-Opportunity to get into the right habits by working to industry best practice standards.

-There could be scope to be involved in business development activities at the higher level.

Potential negatives:

-You will need to record your time and potentially be given billable hours’ targets. Although, this can also act as an effective yardstick to measure your performance.

-Challenging/busy environment with multiple deadlines, but we all like being busy, right?

Career tips:

-Consider getting ICSA qualified if you’re keen to work at the senior level.

-Brush up your presentation and communication skills as often these roles require strong client-facing skills

-When interviewing, be clear about WHY you would prefer to work in professional services compared to in-house. Presenting it as a stepping-stone is a big no-no. For some ideas on this, take a look at:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/company-secretaries-should-i-work-in-house-services-chambers-acis-/

-Try to access some of the higher-level work e.g. share buybacks, capital reductions or corporate simplification projects

 

2. IN-HOUSE PLC

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What’s that?

Listed Companies (including FTSE AND AIM), and non-listed PLCs, where you carry out the CoSec function alongside the other support teams.

 

Potential positives:

-Exposure to further legislation including DTRs, Listing Rules, UK Corporate Governance Code.

-Industry-leading salaries and benefits packages.

-Great variety within the PLC category where you can choose to be a generalist or focus on a specific industry sector.

Potential negatives:

-It’s a fiercely competitive sector, so it can be tough to be break into without relevant experience.

-No guarantee of obtaining PLC exposure especially at the junior level.

Career tips:

-Identify and access the listed company work to boost your progression prospects.

-Consider becoming ICSA qualified to become eligible for the higher-level roles.

-Take a look at some of the ICSA courses on offer such as: (https://www.icsa.org.uk/professional-development/training/training-courses/company-secretarial-practice-for-plcs)

-Pick a sector and develop your niche. This is especially the case with financial services who often favour individuals from a similar background. 

 

3. IN-HOUSE PRIVATE COMPANIES

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What’s that?

Companies ending in Limited/Ltd, where you carry out the CoSec function alongside the other support teams.

 

Potential positives:

-Can be seen as ‘closer to the action’ with a greater ability to influence your stakeholders compared to working for an outsourced service provider.

-Potential IPO experience to be gained.

-Gain a good overall picture of the business, where you act as the nexus between the various support functions such as finance, treasury, tax and legal. 

Potential negatives:

-Less complex legislation to handle compared to the PLC environment.

-Salaries are generally not as competitive as listed organisations.

Career tips:

-If you do eventually want to work in a listed environment, don’t leave it too late!

-If you’re working in professional services, consider any secondment opportunities to gain some in-house experience.

-Try to brush up your meeting support/minute-taking skills so you can progress to board level roles.

-Keep an eye on job descriptions throughout your career to ensure you don’t develop any skills’ gaps.

 

4. NOT-FOR-PROFIT 

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What’s that?

Includes County Councils, NHS Trusts, registered charities, charitable foundations, housing associations.

 

Potential positives:

-Plenty of exposure to meeting support activities.

-Some high-level technical governance work on offer.

-Exposure to a wide range of legislation including The Charities Act, The Charity Governance Code, The National Health Service Act 2006, The Health and Social Care Act 2012.

-The opportunity to work for a worthy cause.

-Less London oriented so a variety of local roles available.

Potential negatives:

-Less focused on entity management so you may develop quite a niche skills’ set. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

-Can be tricky to make the jump into the private sector.

-May not pay quite as well as other sectors.

Career tips:

Consider taking some short courses, such as ICSA Course on Essential Charity Governance –www.icsa.org.uk/essential-charity-governance

Consider taking further specialist ICSA qualifications such as the Diploma in Charity Management or the Certificate in Charity Law and Governance.

 

5. GENERAL GUIDANCE

Here are my general pointers to enhance your career prospects irrespective of which sector you work in:

-Develop and maintain a strong, active LinkedIn profile containing plenty of CoSec keywords.

-Gain a recognized governance qualification; visit www.icsa.org.uk for further info.

-Network regularly to meet the right people and get your name out there.

-Develop a strong relationship with a specialist recruiter!

 So, why not register your details with us as we are instructed in roles in all of these sectors?

 Here is a breakdown of our specialisms:

In addition, check out our G2 Company Secretary Group where we post industry updates, career guidance, current roles and more: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8246819/

 

Visit our website: www.g2cosec.com, drop us an email companysecretaries@g2cosec.com or give us a call 0207 649 9296.

About the author

Mark is an ACIS qualified Chartered Secretary and places Company Secretaries into professional services and in-house roles. Mark is a member of the ICSA and previously worked in-house as a Company Secretary in FTSE 100/250 listed companies.