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Career in Company Secretary

Introduction

The recent upheavals in the corporate world have shaken the confidence of shareholders. There is a greater demand for displaying corporate credibility and transparency by organisations in managing their internal affairs. There is also a need to retain the confidence of various stakeholders. Since, the top management is too busy managing the general working of an organization this new challenge can only be shouldered by some highly qualified and competent professionals.

Here comes the role of a company secretary. Earlier, the traditional role of a company secretary was limited to providing support to the board of directors and managing administrative affairs of an organisation. However, the horizon of their roles and responsibilities has expanded exponentially. Apart from their traditional tasks, company secretaries now have to take care of corporate governance and even legal matters of a company.

As the position of a company secretary has steadily become critical to the smooth functioning of a corporate entity so has the demand for this job profile. In this role, you not only hold a high position in the management hierarchy but your role is highly accountable both within and outside your organisation.

In this context, this job profile provides both exciting career prospects coupled with innumerable challenging situations. All-in-all this position is in great demand in the job market and this trend is not going to slow down anywhere in the near future.

The training company secretaries receive sets them apart from other professionals within a company. These candidates have good exposure to a wide spectrum of subjects such as law, accountancy, administration, secretarial practice and many others. This automatically qualifies them for a vast range of positions within a company from the very early days of their career.

Step-by-Step

Overall, there are three qualifying stages for becoming a company secretary, namely, the foundation stage, the intermediate stage and the final stage. The Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) offers this study course. You can join the foundation course after completing your 10+2 and then move on to the intermediate level of the course. Alternatively, you can complete you graduation, post-graduation or any other professional qualification to seek admission directly into the intermediate stage.

Foundation Course:

Candidates who have passed senior secondary (10+2) can apply for the foundation course. The duration of the foundation course is eight months. Students are required to pass the foundation examination within three years from the date of their admission.

Subjects:
• English and Business Communication
• Basic Economics and Business Environment
• Financial Accounting
• Elements of Business Laws and Management
• Information Systems and Quantitative Techniques

Intermediate Course:

Once you have cleared the foundation course and your age is not less than 17 years, then you can apply for the intermediate level. Graduates, post-graduates (excluding fine arts students) and those who have passed out from ICWAI or ICAI or any other recognised accountancy institution in India or abroad, can directly enrol into the intermediate course without going for the foundation course.

Subjects:
Group I
• General and Commercial Laws
• Company Accounts and Cost & Management Accounting
• Tax Laws
• Management Information Systems and Corporate Communication

Group II
• Company Law
• Company Secretarial Practice
• Economic, Labour and Industrial Laws
• Securities Laws and Regulation of Financial Markets
You can get an exemption for some individual papers on the basis of your pre-qualification.
Final Course:
The final stage of the company secretary course imparts training on a wide variety of specialised subjects.
Subjects:
Group I
• Advanced Company Law and Practice
• Secretarial Practice relating to Economic Laws and Drafting and Conveyance
• Secretarial Management and Systems Audit

Group II
• Financial, Treasury and Forex Management
• Corporate Restructuring-Law and Practice
• Banking and Insurance-Law and Practice

Group III
• WTO-International Trade, Joint Ventures and Foreign Collaborations
• Direct and Indirect Taxation-Law and Practice
• Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations

Training

Training is an important aspect of the company secretary course. You will have to undergo short term training programs during the intermediate level and after the final level examination of the company secretary course. These short term trainings improve your communication and management skills and also help in personality development.

Furthermore, you will have to acquire practical training after completing the intermediate or final level examination to obtain an Associate Membership of ICSI. This training is essential since it gives valuable insight into the working of the corporate sector and also provides practical exposure to industry standards. This training can be completed in companies sponsored by ICSI or under the guidance of a practicing company secretary.

Once you have successfully completed the final level course along with the practical training you are admitted into the institute as an Associate Company Secretary. From this point onwards, you can look for prospective job openings.

Start Early

Clearing your 10+2 is the basic criteria for making a move towards this particular career path. At this level, you can join the foundation level course. However, you can also get admission to the intermediate level of the company secretary course if you have earned your graduate degree or any other equivalent or higher academic qualification.

Is it the Right Career for Me?

If you have good judgmental quality, legal aptitude, interest in current affairs and good administrative ability then company secretary is an ideal career path for you. Other essential skills required for this job profile include good communication skills, a firm grounding in accountancy, secretarial practice and keen mind to learn new things.

What would it Cost Me?

The duration for the foundation course is eight months excluding the months of admission and examination. The fee for the foundation course is Rs 3,600. The intermediate course is nine months excluding the months of admission and examination. The fee for the intermediate course is Rs 7,000 for commerce graduates and Rs 7,700 for others. The final course can cost up to Rs 10,000.

Other than these, the trainings that you will have to undergo during the intermediate and the final level can cost you something around Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500.

Funding/Scholarship

Funding and scholarships are not extended for this course. However, you can take a student loan to pursue your company secretary studies.

Job Prospect

As a qualified company secretary, you can find good positions in the private sector and public sectors, banks and financial institutions. You can also look for openings in stock exchanges, the Department of Company Affairs, company law boards and various government departments. The larger the company and the wider its field activity, the better are the emoluments earned by the company secretary.

Company secretaries have the added advantage of setting up their own consultancy business after obtaining a certificate of practice. Companies with a paid-up share capital of Rs 10 lakh and more and less than Rs 2 crores are required to employ the services of practicing company secretaries for issuing corporate compliance certificates.

Company secretaries have immense knowledge of a wide variety of subjects. In this context, they can take up position of a lecturer or a visiting faculty in various academic establishments.

Pay Packet

A budding and meritorious company secretary can hope to start his career with a monthly remuneration of Rs 20, 000 to Rs 25, 000. However, for an ordinary candidate, a monthly salary of Rs 10, 000 is almost guaranteed. However, with time, experience and expertise in managing company affairs you can command hefty pay packets.

Demand and Supply

As per the Companies Act, 1956, every company that has a paid-up share capital of Rs 2 crores or above has to employ a full time company secretary. The ICSI has developed and regulated the profession of company secretaries in the country. Hence, there are ample career opportunities for company secretaries in various sectors across the nation.

According to ICSI the projected demand for company secretary professionals is set to touch 50,000 by 2015. Presently, there are 22,000 company secretaries in the country.

 

Market Watch

The demand for trained company secretaries is enormous. The primary factor in this regard is the growth of our country’s financial might. The policy of liberalisation has created favourable atmosphere within the country for setting up of new businesses.

Further, numerous foreign companies have set up their installations in the country. All this has translated into India becoming one of the fastest growing economies of the world. Also, there is a spurt in the corporate activities such as expansions, mergers, collaborations and joint ventures. All this means a never ending demand for highly trained company secretaries.

 

International Focus

There is no doubt whatsoever that company secretaries are in huge demand in India and abroad. However, the course is based on the Companies Act 1956, which has its heredity in the Indian legal and political system and does not have much relevance outside India.

Not to be disheartened, a qualified company secretary may nevertheless find employment opportunities similar to those available to business graduates in the USA, Australia UK or other European countries.

Positives/Negatives

+ives

• The market demand for this career is on the upswing.

• There is tremendous growth opportunity in this profession along with excellent remuneration.

• This is a coveted position and rapidly gaining popularity amongst youngsters who want to make it big in the corporate world.

-ives

• There is not much recognition for this course abroad.

• Since the roles and responsibilities associated with this position are highly accountable and visible, there is constant pressure to deliver results.

Different Roles, Different Names

The following is a brief description of the significant roles and responsibilities of a company secretary.

•  Assistance to the Board of Directors: Company secretaries not only provide secretarial assistance to the board but also provide them with expert advice in many respects.

•  Company Registrar: They are an important component of a company’s managerial hierarchy working in the capacity of the company registrar.

•  Legal Advisor: As a legal advisor, they have to provide assistance to the company in case of any legal matter. They also ensure that the company complies with the statutory and bureaucratic directives of company, security and corporate laws.

•  Corporate Policymaker: Company secretaries play an important role in putting together both short term and long term corporate policies of the company. They also advise the company board when existing corporate policies are brought up for review from time-to-time.

•  Chief Administrative Officer: In the capacity of the chief administrative officer, they have to monitor the general administrative activities of the company. They are responsible for the safekeeping of all legal and other confidential documents of the company.

•  Principal Secretary: They have to manage all aspects of corporate meetings be it board meetings, annual general meetings, interaction with important clients and vendors, meetings with government and private delegations. They may also have to take up the responsibility to manage corporate events and manage clients.

•  Corporate Planner: As additional responsibility, company secretaries also have to keep a discerning eye on the expansion opportunities of the company. Further, they have to take care of collaborations, joint-ventures, mergers, takeovers within the country and outside.

•  Important Link: Company secretaries act as a vital link between the board of directors and external entities such as shareholders, regulatory authorities and government bodies. They have to prepare detailed reports regarding company policies and disseminate them amongst internal as well as external stakeholders. On the other hand, they have to present the views of shareholders, regulatory bodies and government agencies to the board.

•  Miscellaneous Tasks: Another important role requires company secretaries to manage the company’s tax management. The assessment of tax, filing of tax has to be supervised by a company secretary. In some organizations, they have to take care of loans taken by the company, deal with corporate banks and actively participate in important investment decisions.

Top Companies

As per the Companies Act, 1956, every company with a paid-up share capital of Rs 2 crores or above has to appoint a full time company secretary. In this respect, the employment horizon of company secretaries is indeed vast and diversified.

Tips for Getting Hired

1. Deft administrative, managerial and communication skills are vital ingredients of success in a highly competitive corporate environment.

2. Company secretaries are good communicators. The skill to make others understand one’s thoughts and ideas in a simple and lucid manner anytime makes secretaries eligible for top posts in an organisation.

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