Meet Hilda Asiaw as she tells us what its like to work as a Senior Company Secretary at Zurich Insurance
Hilda is an ACG qualified governance professional with over six years of governance/company secretarial experience. She enjoys providing sound advice and governance support to boards and committees as well as being a trusted advisor within organisations when pertaining to governance decision-making frameworks. Prior to her career, she studied Law at Brunel University. She's always had an interest in law from a young age and has undertaken a number of legal work placements and mini-pupillages opportunities throughout college/sixth form and university.
Good governance is paramount in order for companies to cultivate long-term sustainable businesses.
The governance professional role continues to evolve and broaden as governance continues to become more critical in today’s environment and for organisations worldwide.
What is Governance?
Governance is a system of processes, internal controls and principles which determines how an organisation is run. It embodies ethics, accountability, sound decision-making processes and effective stakeholder management.
What is a governance professional?
A governance professional is a trusted advisor who provides sound advice to key stakeholders regarding governance best practices and supports management, boards and committees to ensure that directors are provided with the appropriate level of information to facilitate key strategic discussions/decision-making. A governance professional also promotes good governance and liaises closely with key functions to ensure an organisation complies with legislation and regulatory requirements.
Your route to a career in governance
As many company secretaries, my route into a career in governance was not planned. I studied law at Brunel University and had aspirations of becoming a lawyer. However, after undertaking a number of work experience placements during my second and penultimate year of study, I wasn’t entirely sure that law was the right career path for me, so I proceeded to research alternative career routes for law graduates. A lawyer (who I was working for at the time) informed me about the company secretary career route. Following some further research on the company secretary career and attending my first CGIUKI event months later, I knew it was a career path I wanted to embark on. I loved the fact that I would be able to (i) utilise my law degree (phew!), (ii) be in a position of influence from the outset to ensure best governance practices were being adhered to; and (iii) deepen my understanding of a company’s strategy and sound decision-making processes which essentially provides value for shareholders and key stakeholders.
The essential skills for success in governance
That’s a difficult question, as a few come to mind! However, I would say the most essential skills are great stakeholder management, organisation and time management. As a governance professional, you are continuously liaising with key internal and external stakeholders on a day-to-day basis to facilitate good decision-making processes. So it is imperative that you build rapport with colleagues and positive working relationships with stakeholders (both internal and external) who can see you as a trusted advisor when it comes to good governance principles. Also as individuals who support the board, it is important that boards and management are provided with information and sound advice in a timely manner – therefore, being organised, forward-thinking and effectively managing your time is absolutely key.
- Completing my Masters degree with Distinction and officially qualifying as a governance professional is definitely a key highlight in my career.
- Also, my time at Visa was absolutely fantastic – I had the opportunity to be a part of an amazing team of experienced governance professionals and also travelled, which was a bonus!
How did the Institute support your career as a governance professional?
CGIUKI has provided a great deal of support throughout my career:
- - via hosting useful webinars/seminars (to network with other governance professionals) and governance workshops
- - circulating the monthly Governance and Compliance magazine, keeping members briefed of new governance practices and regulations
- - providing members with access to useful guidelines/templates pertaining to key governance documents (such as committee terms of references, board charters, etc.)
Words of wisdom for the next generation of governance professionals?
Networking is absolutely key. The company secretarial/governance sector is a ‘small world’; therefore, being proactive in building key relationships with other governance professionals, recruiters, and governance firms is beneficial. I would also say investing in yourself is paramount – it's important to continue to upskill and keep up to date with key governance changes (whether it is pertaining to the Corporate Governance Code, Listing Rules, Companies Act 2006 etc.) and also reflect on how these upcoming changes may impact current governance processes in place within organisations.
Live blog feeds
In their shoes:
Continuing our 'in their shoes' series, we sat down with Laura Sercombe, CEO of Girls Friendly Society, which has been shortlisted for this year's Diversity & Inclusion Initiative of the Year award.Read more