2021 Awards - the winners revealed

CGIUKI chief executive Sara Drake explains who won what and why

The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland’s 2021 Awards were back with a bang at the London Park Lane Hilton Hotel last night and how great it was to be able to celebrate the achievements of the governance community in person. Although our virtual awards ceremony last year was a joyous affair in its own right, there is something really special about being in a crowded room again.

It was really uplifting to listen to the enthusiastic response from the audience as our host Dan Walker of BBC Breakfast and Strictly Come Dancing fame called out the names of those individuals, teams, projects and initiatives that had won a coveted award. It was also extremely gratifying to be in a room with such a wide cross section of governance expertise on display. We had winners from the NHS, the corporate sector, the legal profession, the world of hospitality and from as far afield as Saudi Arabia. The range of entries for this year’s Awards truly reflects the importance of governance across the globe and the importance of these awards to governance professionals across the board. Read on for details of our 2021 Award winners.

Company Secretary of the Year:

Lauren MacIntyre, Director of Corporate Affairs and Company Secretary of North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) – the one clear winner in this category this year, someone who, against the backdrop of the pandemic, delivered everything our judges were looking for.

Particularly impressive was the tireless support Lauren had offered at such a difficult time. That included being agile in supporting the Trust board in the face of hybrid working, but also most especially her work with the leadership and operational teams in setting up services at the NHS Nightingale Hospital at London ExCel. She was, in the words of the judges, the glue that held everything together. 

Governance Professional of the Year (Joint Winners):

Nicola Carroll, Corporate Governance Director at Rolls-Royce Holdings plc and Robert Lyons, Deputy Company Secretary at Marks and Spencer Group plc. The judges found it hard to separate Nicola and Robert so the decision was made to jointly award them this award.

Nicola was described as someone with a formidable work ethic who delivers above expectations. This served her well in taking on the Rolls-Royce rights issue and recapitalisation in 2020, a massive and complicated project which, the judges noted, itself amounted to a wide range of achievements. The judges also noted Nicola’s role as a mentor, her commitment to nurturing talent supported by strong testimonials from just some of those she’d recruited and mentored. 

Robert has an impressive range of achievements under his belt, among them a digital AGM which built on the achievements of the previous year. In the views of the judges, his balance of creativity and commerciality was the enablement of creativity in others by empowering their choice of projects. The nomination underscored the fact that Robert is a leader, not a follower, enabling and empowering others to develop their potential.

Governance Champion of the Year:

Dr Sam De Silva, Partner, CMS.

Sam is this year’s winner in recognition of his work leading the development of ISO 31022, the new global standard in legal risk management.

This was, the judges felt, a project with a truly global impact. The nomination described someone who was prepared to go the extra mile in the name of good governance. It was notable, the judges felt, that Sam’s work on the standard had been undertaken on a voluntary and pro bono basis – it wasn’t integral to his job, he had chosen to take a leading role and make a difference. This is the essence of a governance champion.

Team of the Year:

easyJet plc’s Company Secretariat team.

The judges felt that all shortlisted teams this year were of a very high standard.

Our winner is a company secretarial team of just three who’d had what one judge described as a “phenomenal” number of board and committee meetings, a cyber-attack, rights issue and takeover approach, plus Brexit, to contend with as the business fought for its survival. The team were in the thick of it all, making sure the board had the right information, at the right time, to make the right decisions.

The One to Watch:

Leah Ritchie, Assistant Company Secretary, AstraZeneca PLC.

This year once again we saw a very good shortlist for this category but our winner was a firm favourite with the judges. The nomination described someone with considerable ability and versatility, someone who is unafraid to step into and get up to speed in areas with which she wasn't previously unfamiliar. Someone who supports other members of the team and is always showing willing to pick up ad hoc tasks and projects – even those outside her areas of expertise. She is, in the words of the judges, “extraordinary”. 

Yana Fowle, Trainee Company Secretary at Marks and Spencer Group plc was Highly Commended by the judges.

Governance Project of the Year:

Unilever PLC – unification of legal structure

This was a challenging category, with a number of very strong projects in the running.

Our winner here was a huge and complex piece of work led by the company secretarial and investor relations teams and its impact stretched from the UK to the Netherlands. Unilever’s unification of its legal structure was, the judges felt, a unique piece of work, something for which there was no pre-existing blueprint, and the sheer scale of it was commendable. Its significance was reflected in the nomination which described very clearly and succinctly the benefits to shareholders, and the links to strategy and governance. 

Diversity & Inclusion Initiative of the Year:

Institute of Hospitality – Diversity Shield and Youth Council initiatives.

This was another very challenging category, with some strong contenders.

Our winner put forward two initiatives which, the judges felt, demonstrated the organisation was on a journey in its response to D&I. The Institute of Hospitality is operating in a sector that has been particularly impacted by the pandemic, and they recognised the opportunity that represented to review and reset the sector’s approach to people, to future proof and promote diversity. It was a holistic approach to D&I, and one that underscored the link with youth employment, mentoring and shaping the leaders of the future. 

ESG Initiative of the Year:

The Red Sea Development.

A crucial award in the year of COP26, the winner in this category is The Red Sea Project from The Red Sea Development Company.

Of all the initiatives shortlisted this year the Red Sea Project was, the judges felt, the one which went the furthest beyond compliance and which promised to be the most impactful, potentially touching thousands of lives. This is an initiative of many parts, and the nomination was particularly strong in describing the benefits to different parts of the economy, among them farming and the fishing and hospitality industries.

Service Provider of the Year:

Elemental CoSec Ltd

This was a tightly run race with little clear blue sky between what were very high-quality nominations.

Our winner, Elemental, was described as “living and breathing” the new environment created as a result of the pandemic. They had recognised that new ways of hybrid working were developing and were, the judges felt, more obviously set up to operate in the digital space. They used that agility and understanding to drive significant changes to the services they offered their clients, and make a demonstrable impact. That impact was attested to by strong client testimonials.

We were also pleased to welcome the Reporting Awards back as part of our annual Awards after a break last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find details here of those companies commended for excellence in corporate reporting.

Huge congratulations to all our winners and to all those individuals, teams, projects, initiatives and reports that were shortlisted for an award. Their achievements showcase just why good governance is important, the transformational impact that it can have and the invaluable support that governance professionals provide to organisations across all parts of society.

Sara Drake, chief executive of The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland

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