The Chartered Governance Institute - West Midlands

West Midlands

An overview of the first year of a new branch

New West Midlands Branch - a year on

The West Midlands region launched a new West Midlands Branch during Autumn 2018 - with the aim of bringing the West Midlands company secretarial and governance community together, and to create fresh networking, professional development and student support opportunities.

The new West Midlands Branch has been established with the help of volunteer Branch Committee members and the creation of a new partnership between ICSA and the Association of Corporate Governance Practitioners (ACGP). ACGP is a global professional membership body, with its head office in Birmingham, that offers professional qualifications for board members and those working in governance functions. ACGP promotes the importance of good governance to the success of all organisations operating in the private, public and third sector. ICSA and ACGP have much in common and ICSA are pleased to welcome members of the ACGP into our global and local communities as professional subscribers.

Initial interest in the West Midlands Branch has been strong with over 70 people attending the branch’s December 2018 inaugural event - which included a CPD presentation on the new Corporate Governance Code.

If you are based in the West Midlands (or surrounding regions) and are keen to hear about upcoming West Midlands events, the West Midlands Branch send you a warm welcome and suggest the following three key actions:

(1) Make sure you have opted in to hear from your local branch (so that you do receive invitations to future networking and professional development events). Log into your MyCG account and update your communications centre, opting in for ‘Branch events.’

(2) Check out the ICSA West Midlands Branch webpage where you can register for an upcoming event 

(3) Join the ICSA West Midlands Network on LinkedIn.

Upcoming events include ‘What makes a great company secretary/ governance professional?’ (Thursday 5 December 2019) and ‘Corporate Governance Update’ (Thursday 26 March 2020). ICSA West Midlands Branch events are open to both members and non-members (as part of the Branch’s aim to grow the West Midlands network and membership).

Sharing key learnings from West Midlands Branch events

The West Midlands Branch’s May 2019 event focused on ‘The role of boards and company secretary around Cyber Risks’.

Rob Shapland, Head of Awareness at Falanx Group, delivered a keynote presentation on Cyber Risk and the potential impact of a data breach (including significant GDPR fines and reputational damage).

Rob is an ethical hacker with 10 years’ experience conducting penetration tests for hundreds of organisations, from small businesses to major international organisations. He has extensive experience in developing and delivering cyber security awareness programmes to organisations including the FTSE 100. He is also a regular speaker at events and conferences around Europe, and has appeared on both BBC and ITV as a cyber security adviser.

Rob specialises in simulating advanced cyber attacks against organisations to test their existing security and controls (combining technical attacks with his other hobby of dressing up and tricking his way into company headquarters using social engineering techniques). He then shares the penetration test results with the organisation and helps the organisation improve their cyber security.

Rob’s presentation focused on the risks around social engineering; email phishing (including spear phishing, ransomware and whaling); and password selection. With regards to social engineering, Rob highlighted how hackers can successfully bypass a company’s security by tricking employees using information that they have found on employees’ social media accounts. For example, the hacker enters an organisation’s reception disguised as a network engineer; the hacker is wearing a convincing organisational name badge which they have copied from the network engineer’s Facebook photos; the hacker asks the receptionist for a senior employee that they already know is on annual leave due to the senior employee’s personal social media postings; the hacker then gets another hacker to phone the receptionist, pretending to be the senior employee on holiday, and confirms to the receptionist that it is fine to let the network engineer in.

Rob successfully made attendees think about their own employees’ use of social media, the risks this exposed their organisation to, and the potential steps they could take to reduce such risks. Rob shared tips on how to minimise exposure including raising staff awareness on tightening privacy options on their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn); not revealing personal or sensitive information on social media; and not ‘friending’ people on social media that they don’t know.

The West Midlands Branch’s September 2019 event focused on ‘Next Generation Governance’.

Simon Osborne FCIS, former ICSA Chief Executive, was joined by a panel of four millennials to discuss ICSA’s recent report ‘Next Generation Governance: Millenial perspectives on the future of governance’ (free to download at

Simon opened the event by reiterating the importance of listening to younger people’s thoughts and feelings on governance. Simon highlighted how this can help an organisation move from a reactive to proactive governance mindset and be a source of competitive advantage.

Simon emphasized that the key point that he wanted attendees to take away from the event was ‘Why wait?’, encouraging all to be ahead and forward-thinking – highlighting how inertia within organisations means key social issues are not being addressed until regulated, and how this is short-sighted and harmful to society. Simon also shared useful insights from the annual ‘Deloitte Global Millennial Survey’ (free to download at

ICSA’s ‘Next Generation Governance’ report closes with three key questions which ICSA hopes members will consider within their own organisations. Simon discussed these three questions with the panel. To ensure open and honest debate, the event worked to ‘Chatham House Rules’. However, key outputs from the panel discussion are generically shared below. The millennial panel came from varied backgrounds (senior associate solicitor, senior recruitment consultant, union organiser, student/ governance practitioner)

1. Is my organisation paying attention to relevant social issues?

Panel members shared the good work their organisations are already doing whilst highlighting a range of social issues which they feel still require more focus, for example, women in the workplace and flexible working; the increasing use of zero-hour contracts and ethical questions around the fair use of such contracts; organisations evading pension obligations; mental illness and suicide; poverty within the communities that organisations operate; diversity and the lack of diversity role models within organisations. Panel members acknowledged how there can sometimes feel a disconnect between the outward-facing Annual Report and internal day-to-day working life - but acknowledged their own personal accountability to live and promote their organisation’s values, and how it can be an exciting opportunity to be an agent of change themselves.

2. Are today’s procedures and controls capable of addressing tomorrow’s challenges?

Panel members shared some key concerns including the challenge of technological changes and GDPR; the tension between organisations needing to make money now and investing in the future (acknowledging capitalism and how pervasive that is within our society); how change isn’t happening quickly enough; and how we need to look at who is in control of implementing controls and whether more younger non-executive directors are required (with the average age of non-executive directors currently being over 60 years old)

3. How successfully are we communicating the “conscience” of our organisation?

Panel members considered both internal and external communications. Some panel members felt that their organisations are communicating their values well but that the values are not always being interpreted and lived effectively – with more thought required around what motivates the majority of the workforce and how this can be aligned to the organisation’s values and aims. Other panel members felt that their organisation’s communication of their “conscience” is not where it needs to be with challenges including communication across international operations; organisations needing to involve younger people more in governance and communications so that communications successfully engage younger people; and organisations needing to be clearer on what employees should and shouldn’t tolerate in the workplace (with the decline of trade unions being noted and the potential risk of employees being exploited if not unionised - with collective action needed to challenge an employer).

Simon closed the event by encouraging attendees to enter The Chartered Governance Institute's Tom Morrison Essay Prize competition which encourages new thinking and recognises original approaches to governance. The essay prize is open to students, recent graduates or governance professionals at the start of their career, and essays need to be submitted by the 6 January 2020 deadline (with full information available at

Article by Nicola Rees, ICSA West Midlands Branch Committee Member

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