From a very young age, Funmi’s parents thought she would make a good lawyer, as she was very outspoken, so she was guided down that path. When she was old enough (and much quieter!), she discovered it was a career path she was interested in and decided to pursue this at university.
In addition to a background in law, Funmi pays attention to detail and is very organised. She is happy to have found a role that is linked to law but means she doesn’t have to go to court like a conventional lawyer.
Company Secretarial work just seemed natural to Funmi, a really good fit!
Before moving into her current role as Deputy Company Secretary at Coverys Managing Agency Limited, Funmi worked for Crossrail Limited for over 11 years. She started as an Executive and Board Support Officer, which gave her a good mix of experience and knowledge and some interaction with senior management.
Funmi was promoted to Company Secretarial Assistant. As she moved up the ladder, her engagement with senior management increased. She was given her own two Committees to manage – the Health and Safety Committee that reported to the Board and the Risk Sub-committee that reported to the Executive Committee. Administering these committees from end to end helped her to get more involved in the governance process and further develop her relationship with senior managers.
After a promotion to Assistant Company Secretary, she was given more responsibility and managed the Board meetings, which gave her direct interaction with the Chair and Board of Directors. During her years with Crossrail Limited, Funmi saw a lot of change and moved up the ranks, and her last role with the company was as Head of Secretariat, a position of great influence and one where she found herself to be the person to contact for advice and guidance on corporate governance.
In Funmi’s current role at Coverys, she is working with a regulated company for the first time, giving her insight into the world of financial services. It is interesting and challenging work and she is grateful for the opportunity to gain experience in a completely different sector.
Having a law background helped me to understand the confidential elements of governance, to manage sensitive information and to recognise the importance of adhering to statutory provisions and regulatory requirements.
Governance is making sure that whatever you're doing is in line with regulations and laws and that you are translating them and actioning them in the right way.
What is Governance?
Governance is making sure that whatever you're doing is in line with regulations and laws and that you are translating them and actioning them in the right way. Governance provides a framework to guide you; this includes things like setting out your terms of reference and making sure all of the organisation's governance documentation is in order. It is also ensuring that statutory requirements are adhered to.
What is a governance professional?
When someone asks Funmi what she does, she tells them she is a Company Secretary, but then she feels as if she needs to explain what that is, as most of them focus in on the word secretary.
The Company Secretary is responsible for making sure the corporate governance is in place within an organisation. They keep the board on track and in line, and oversee that everything is completed in time so that the rest of the company can follow suit. The role comes with a number of key stakeholder relationships that need to be managed, including the Executive Committee, the CEO and the Chair.
The route to a career in governance
Funmi went to University and Law school in Nigeria, before completing a Masters in International Business Law in the UK. Funmi always knew she wanted to be a Company Secretary so the choices she made along the way were because she thought they would be helpful in her governance career.
Fresh out of Law School and after completing her National Youth Service for a year, Funmi started out in a law firm in Nigeria in 2004 where they also provided company secretarial services, helping her build up her knowledge base. This was ideal for Funmi as it wasn’t going to court and writing briefs - it was getting her one step closer to her dream career.
Completing her Masters in the middle of the 2008 recession meant it took a year and a half after graduation to find a company secretarial role. Not one to sit around, Funmi used the time to gain more skills through administrative and charity work. The best thing she took away from these experiences was improved people-skills, and the ability to communicate better. She eventually got her first role at Crossrail Limited in March 2010.
While working in her role as a Company Secretarial Assistant, Funmi also studied and completed the Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme in 2015.
The essential skills for success in governance
Be able to speak up when you need clarity on something. It won’t help to leave the conversation without a solid understanding of the task at hand or the concept you will need to convey to others. The first time you have to do this is nerve wracking, but it gets easier, and eventually, in Funmi’s case she came to enjoy it.
Governance professionals need to be adaptable; the pandemic has shown us that even more. One moment, face-to-face meetings were possible, the next they were not. Governance couldn’t stop because of the pandemic, it had to continue. Who made the transition to virtual meetings possible?... the governance professionals.
The main thing that Funmi feels she needs in her role is her ability to stay organised and to pay attention to detail, these are key skills that every company secretary will need.
Research skills will not go amiss. You will need to do a lot of research when you are involved in due diligence and in some cases will need to find out more about complex issues so that you can explain them in a more accessible way.
There have been a number of highlights along the way, but Funmi would say her biggest highlight was completing her last exam for the Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme when she was 5 months pregnant!
How did the Institute support your career as a governance professional?
Funmi found the Qualifying Programme and exams with CGIUKI to be invaluable. She still uses her knowledge constantly to help her navigate her role. According to Funmi, she still refers to her corporate governance text when a question comes up to confirm her thinking. Recently she was in a situation where she needed to confirm something that referred back to the Companies Act - and she was able to sense check against her text books. Funmi sees real value in completing exams and gaining knowledge.
The Institute also provides useful training for keeping up to date with regulatory requirements and key governance information.
Words of wisdom for the next generation of governance professionals?
A career in governance is interesting and a great career choice for someone with an interest in law but no desire to be a lawyer. You still need to be aware of regulations and how things are governed, but you don’t have to work in court.