Company Secretary

    If you are wondering how to become a company secretary, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of administration and job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Company secretaries, often called chartered secretaries, ensure that companies and directors obey statutory guidelines. As a company secretary you have numerous financial and legal responsibilities.

    Duties include:
    * taking minutes at annual general meetings and board meetings
    * preparing annual company reports
    * maintaining records such as lists of company directors and shareholders
    * sending company information to Companies House or the Stock Exchange
    * administering share options and dividends
    * keeping abreast of company law
    * advising directors and board members on legal responsibilities
    * acting as the company named representative on legal documentation
    * dealing with external professionals, such as lawyers and auditors.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of a good company secretary include:
    * good verbal and written communication skills
    * strrength in presentation and negotiation
    * good organisation and time management
    * sharp attention to detail
    * understanding of business law and finance
    * sound judgement
    * good problem-solving skills
    * ability to prioritise and manage a busy workload.

    How to become a company secretary
    Many company secretaries have practical business experience, and many have academic or professional qualifications in business, accountancy, law or public administration.

    Formal qualifications are not essential to be secretary of a private limited company, but to be the company secretary of a public limited company (PLC), you must be an accountant, barrister, solicitor, or a qualified company secretary with the ICSA – Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators.

    To be a qualified company secretary, you must complete the ICSA International Qualifying Scheme, which comprises three stages:

    * An ICSA Certificate in Business Practice
    * An ICSA Diploma in Business Practice
    * A Professional Programme – Part 1 and 2.

    Your starting point will depend on previous qualifications. You do not need qualifications for the Certificate in Business Practice, but you can start with the Diploma if you have an accounting technician qualification or a business-related HND. With a degree in accounting, law or finance, or if you are a solicitor or qualified chartered accountant, you could start with the Professional Programme Part 2.

    Training and Development
    You will usually develop knowledge on the job, as well as studying for the ICSA International Qualifying Scheme exams while you work.

    After passing the Professional Programme stages you will be a graduate member of ICSA. You become a fully-qualified Associate member of ICSA when you have over six years of relevant work experience.

    ICSA offers single-subject certificates in areas such as offshore finance or charity management. You can study these as stand-alone qualifications or as part of continuing professional development – CPD.

    The Pay
    Salaries can vary greatly, but averages according to 2006 surveys were:
    General salaries are between £35k and £55k per annum
    Top rated salaries were between £70k and £120k

    Job Prospects
    Registered companies must by law have a company secretary and you could work in all kinds of industry and commercial sector, or for other types of organisation, such as local authorities, charities, universities or NHS hospital trusts.

    With experience you could progress to a company’s chief executive or MD. You could choose to become a self-employed consultant or a company secretary for several smaller businesses.

    Jobs are advertised in the national press, the ICSA Chartered Secretary magazine, by accountancy or law publications and recruitment sites, or through websites for local authority or charity recruitment.

    Useful resources:
    Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators – ICSA
    16 Park Crescent
    London W1B 1AH
    Tel: 0207 580 4741

    Council for Administration – CfA
    6 Graphite Square
    Vauxhall Walk
    London SE11 5EE
    Tel: 0207 091 9620

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