The role of the junior and how automation might impact on that

In this article Diligent discusses how automation might impact the role of the junior within the Secretariat team.

On 15 June 2021, a roundtable discussion moderated by Peter Swabey, Policy & Research Director at The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland and hosted by Diligent Corporation, considered how automation might impact the role of the junior within the Secretariat team.

There were differing views from those attending the roundtable, with some arguing that automation would see the demise of the junior whilst others believed that there would still be work for juniors to do.

One senior governance professional, who argued that administrative assistants would ultimately lose their jobs through automation, considers two strands to the profession: the company secretary who provides advice and the administrator who deals with the administrative side.

The added value on the governance side is down to trust and status, something that is earned over time, and company secretarial assistants at this moment in time are administrators. With entity management systems able to automate key parts of the administrative side of the role, for example by providing data health checks, compliance calendar prompts, document assembly and automating reporting, there is the concern that assistants will no longer gain experience by learning on the job.

While there are lots of products available now to help make company secretaries lives easier, not everyone shares the view that learning is at risk if everything is automated. Automation takes away some of the drudgeries of filling in forms, but it doesn’t take away the need to understand those forms. Juniors will still need to understand the forms and the concepts behind them to review the completed forms for accuracy. As they do this, they are being developed.

The process will always be a fundamental part of the role, particularly on the compliance side with more automation. Furthermore, you can only automate what you know how to do through data. There is still likely to be plenty of work for young people who will have to put information into the systems in the first place and to check it for accuracy.

Many of our participants considered that automation is a good opportunity for the profession. One roundtable participant had elevated their career by proactively trying to find ways for automation so that they could focus on the advisory part of the role. Another argued that administrators have always provided value as they are always talking to the legal team, which is always talking to business development. Furthermore, junior people have the opportunity to be trouble shooters or horizon gaze for more senior members of the Secretariat team.

Like in many other professions, there will always be a need for juniors to perform specific tasks with which others need support. If the majority of our roundtable participants are right, automation doesn’t signal the end of the road for those in a more junior position; it simply opens other avenues. With the current shortage of governance professionals in the market and the need for people to take on this important work, this is positive news indeed!

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