What is a Chartered Secretary? PDF Print E-mail

What does a Chartered Secretary do?

The reality of today's market place means that Chartered Secretaries can be involved in any aspect of the operations of a company. The specific responsibilities of a Chartered Secretary vary depending upon the level of the job role, the size of the organisation and
the sector in which it operates. Company secretaries are the primary source of advice on the conduct of business and this can span from legal, compliance and accounting advice to the development of strategy and corporate planning. Providing advice on corporate
governance issues is an increasingly important role for company secretaries.

The company secretary forms an important link between the board of directors and various other departments in the company and also ensures good relations with shareholders and the public.

Responsibilities may include:

  • advising the board on effective decision-making, legal and regulatory matters and risk management;
  • developing and managing strategies to ensure compliance with legal and statutory requirements;
  • identifying areas for improved corporate governance;
  • implementing changes in relevant legislation;
  • managing board, shareholder and trustee communications, reports and meetings;
  • liaising with auditors, lawyers and tax advisers;
  • leading on issues essential to business performance such as negotiation of contracts, finance, accounting, insurance and property;
  • and interpreting and advising on financial reporting.

The skills you need

  • a keen interest in business and the legal and regulatory environment within which it operates;
  • strong strategic instincts;
  • an ability to absorb and digest technical knowledge;
  • highly developed numeracy and literacy skills;
  • the confidence to communicate with and influence stakeholders at all levels, including board members and shareholders;
  • impeccable organisational skills;
  • ability to focus on detail and work to a high level of accuracy while balancing competing priorities; and well-developed integrity and a belief in the importance of transparency.

What is a Chartered Secretary?

Chartered Secretaries are high-ranking professionals with a diverse range of skills unique among the professions. Obtaining the qualification (which is registered on NQF level 8 – equivalent to an Honours degree) is a fast-track way of reaching the boardroom and becoming part of the senior management team. The company secretary is a strategic position of considerable influence at the heart of governance operations within an organisation.

A company secretary is a job position and CSSA offers the only professional qualification for the company secretary profession. The scope of a Chartered Secretary is much more involved than a company secretary and more companies today seek company secretaries with the Chartered Secretary qualification.

How do I become a Chartered Secretary and what are the different levels of membership?

Membership of CSSA evidences not only academic qualifications but also practical experience, character, integrity and responsibility. Membership also ensures remaining at the forefront of global developments and best practice in governance. It involves a career-long relationship with the Institute – from a professional qualification and beyond via Continuing Professional Development ("CPD") and ongoing technical support packages and tools. To become a full member of CSSA and a Chartered Secretary you need to demonstrate a certain level of professional experience. Many students study while they work and are able to gain their professional experience at the same time as studying.

The first stage to becoming a Chartered Secretary is to complete the CSSA Board Qualifying Examinations. Once you have successfully completed the exams and paid your fi rst graduate fee you will be given the designation GradICSA, which you can use after your name. There are two levels of full membership – Associate (ACIS) and Fellow (FCIS). Once a GradICSA has gained the necessary practical experience and is deemed to be of appropriate ethical character, he/she is admitted as a member at Associate level and becomes a Chartered Secretary (ACIS). On admission as a Fellow, the highest level of membership, a Chartered Secretary may include the prestigious "FCIS" designation after his/her name.

Membership offers employers ‘watchdog' accountability with recourse to the Institute's disciplinary proceedings in the case of misconduct and/or breach by a Member of the Institute's Code of Professional Ethics and Conduct. As CSSA is a professional body, membership is not automatic and is granted on the basis of academic achievements, personal and professional ethics, working experience and CPD.

The Institute of Business Studies' ("IBS") diploma can be accepted as an entrance requirement for the CSSA qualifi cation. The IBS programme offers a course in business related subjects for persons who did not complete matric. Many people start their career by studying for an appropriate degree and later, when employed, undertake the professional courses of the institute.

Why become a Chartered Secretary?

We know that you don't have to be a Chartered Secretary to work in governance, fi nance, law or run your own company. But, we fi rmly believe that becoming a Chartered Secretary represents a sound achievement and opens doors for a variety of career
opportunities.

  • You'll stand out from the competition with an enhanced professional identity – those with professional qualifi cations instantly stand out to prospective employers.
  • It gives instant recognition of your professional and academic achievement – being Chartered shows that you have reached a level of academic achievement and professional experience.
  • The qualification is recognised around the globe and CSSA members in good standing are welcome anywhere in the world should they decide to emigrate.
  • There is currently a shortage of qualified and experienced Chartered Secretaries, with demand on the increase in light of the Companies Act and the King code. This means that Chartered Secretaries can command competitive remuneration packages.
  • If you are studying or starting out in your career, belonging to a professional body will give you a good head start and support structure.
  • The benefits of belonging to a professional organisation can enhance your professional life and far outweigh the disadvantages of an annual fee.
  • It is a recognised qualification for accountants and lawyers.
  • Chartered Secretaries can act as accounting offi cers to Close Corporations and small companies.
  • CSSA is:
    – A registered professional body with SAQA;
    – A recognised controlling body for tax practitioners with SARS;
    – An accredited quality assurance partner with QCTO;
    – Represented on the King committee.