I recently had the pleasure of sharing a coffee with an experienced Corporate Secretary here in Cayman. The purpose of this coffee date was to find out what life is like in the shoes of a Corporate Secretary and give you useful insight in to their busy work life.
Can you briefly describe what your role entails?
As a Corporate Secretary I carry out board support functions and facilitate the board meeting process for my clients. This means I prepare board packs and arrange the timing of the meeting and deal with the logistics of the meeting such as organising conference video calls to ensure the meeting runs smoothly.
Once the board meeting has started I sit in the meeting and take minutes and draft them up afterwards, normally circulating them to the client and Directors within an agreed time frame, between 10-15 days. This will include an action list which will be sent to attendees who have been given tasks to action before the next meeting.
The thing to be so mindful of with minute taking, is that they are approved and signed and then that becomes a legal document. You need to be extremely focused in the meetings and be familiar with vocabulary being used in the meeting, as well as the preferred style of that specific board of Directors to ensure the minutes are correct.
What is your favourite element of your job?
I find it really interesting as I meet so many different people and have exposure to senior stakeholders. I engage with so many different people daily and not all are in the financial field, so I get exposure to many different areas and industries. In meetings, I often hear Company Directors talking about how different ‘world news’ issues may affect their work and how they currently operate. I find this fascinating!
How do you like to start your day?
Normally with a coffee and then its straight into my emails. As I deal with people globally and in different time zones I’m normally playing catchup from what’s come in overnight. Sometimes it can be straight into a board meeting though. With such a geographical range of stakeholder, I could have a meeting starting at any time. I’ve even had meetings before at 4am that I have had to facilitate!
What keeps you motivated each day?
It is a very deadline orientated role and I’m always working towards them. There are so many different things that need to be completed before a certain deadline such as year-end reports and financial statement approvals. I am motivated by my clients, who I enjoy working with and also taking pride in my work.
What do you dislike about your current role?
Converseley, there are often a lot of deadlines that need to be met at the same time. For example, when end of year financial statements need to be all submitted by the same deadline we can become extremely busy with multiple meetings at the same time. It helps me to keep focused but can mean a lot of late nights.
Who do you communicate with most regularly, both inside and outside your organisation?
There’s a range of stakeholders. Internally, I would regularly work with my Assistants on the corporate team who help keep me organised by completing administrative tasks. Outside, I would deal with my clients and different Lawyers, Directors and their Assistants.
Since you first started in this role, what do you think has been your biggest challenge?
The volume of meetings/clients can keep me very busy, particularly at the end of the financial year, and it can be difficult to keep the quality of my work high at this time but that’s where having pride in my work comes in. There is also pressure from clients when deadlines are coming close, which I have to meet.
What advice would you give someone who is seeking the same line of work?
Time management and organisation are very important so make sure that you have these traits in abundance. You should also look at doing a minute taking course and make sure you’re first class at these. Ongoing, for a Corporate Secretary role, it is really important to have the ICSA qualification. It is not the only qualification out there, but it is becoming more sought after by employers and clients.
How did your past experience and education prepare you for this role?
Initially I studied Law at university and wasn’t sure whether I wanted to follow a career in that industry. My sister actually told me about the industry and then I researched the role and decided this was the career for me. So, I started at the bottom of a co-sec team and studied my ICSA qualification while I worked.
What is the culture like on the corporate team?
As a team, we help each other out. We rely on each other as there are clashes of meetings and with the volume of work we have to share the load. The support from our Administrators is especially vital as I lean on them heavily to ensure we give our clients first class service. This also means that we have a lot of fun as we work so closely together.
Emily Murphy is a recruitment and HR professional who loves helping people find careers they love.