Company secretaries are responsible for ensuring that an organisation complies with standard financial and legal practice and maintains high standards of corporate governance. Public limited companies are legally required to employ a company secretary and many private companies also have the role. Positions can be found across all sectors, in the public and not-for-profit sectors in particular.
A company secretary’s responsibilities typically include:
Although it is possible to work your way up to the position of company secretary without any formal training, companies generally prefer to hire graduates with a diploma or degree in business studies, management, economics, accountancy, mathematics or law. Most company secretaries enter the vocation after completing professional training as an accountant or lawyer. Graduate trainee posts are rare and attract fierce competition. It is also normally essential to have gained previous professional administrative or commercial work experience.
Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended:
False Bay TVET College
National Certificate: Business Management N4 - N6
SA Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators
Training: Company Secretary (CIS)
University of Pretoria
Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting Sciences; LLB Law
University of Stellenbosch
Bachelor of Accounting; LLB Law
Bachelor of Accounting Science
University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Accounting Science; Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting Sciences
University of Johannesburg
Bachelor of Accounting; Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting Sciences; Bachelor of Commerce: Economics and Econometrics; LLB Law
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
National Diploma: Accounting
Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma and Bachelor of Technology: Various
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Bachelor of Commerce: Financial Planning
Why did you choose this profession?
I didn’t really choose it, it was more like I fell into it! I started my career working in the area of general administration within various sectors, including the legal space. I have held the positions of operations officer, operations manager and, more recently, company secretary. It appealed to me because the ‘Cosec’ environment is a new and exciting field.
What training did you undergo?
I hold an Advanced Diploma in Management through the South African Institute of Management (SAIM), a Diploma in Public Relations (Damelin), and I am currently completing a CSSA qualification part-time. However, my most critical training has been operating within this environment, and acquiring the skills necessary to be able to make a meaningful contribution. Company secretaries typically hold either the CSSA qualification or a law degree.
What type of personality best suits this work?
Company secretaries must have a strong personality. They need to have a good eye for detail. They need to be organised, structured in their approach and able to work under pressure. Good time management skills are also imperative.
Is experience as important as formal training?
The role of Company Secretary within a Seta environment is slightly different to the same role within a large corporate. Setas (Sector Education and Training Authorities) are not governed by the Companies Act (2008), they are governed by Seta-specific legislation and regulations. An in-depth knowledge of Seta-specific legislation and regulations is required. This is acquired on the job rather than through formal training. A sound knowledge and understanding of corporate governance is also needed. While important, formal training only takes you so far; hands-on experience is critical, as implementation is the ‘tricky part’.
Describe a typical day on the job
There is no such thing as a typical day on the job. Every day is different. A lot depends on the time of year. The demands and requirements are very specific in terms of the year-end audits, the quarterly reporting to governing structures, board meetings, committee meetings and the need to periodically review policies to ensure that they are aligned to legislative changes in the environment. However, certain aspects of the job remain constant: deadlines have to be met, information must be produced timeously, board and committee packs and minutes must be produced on time, and all deliverables in terms of the board, committees, service providers and stakeholders must be monitored and delivered upon as agreed.
What do you like most about your line of work?
I enjoy the fact that my days are unpredictable. This ensures that my job is never boring.
Which aspects are you least keen on?
The need to follow up and ensure that decisions which have been agreed upon have been implemented. Setting up meetings can also be taxing and time-consuming as it is often difficult to coordinate people’s diaries.
Advice for someone starting out in this career?
Anyone considering a career as a company secretary must be willing to be desk-bound; they must also be willing to work very hard and keep long hours when necessary. Unless you are organised, have very strong administrative skills, good problem solving and good people skills, this profession is not for you.
Describe your job in three words
Challenging, dynamic and professional.