Joanne Munis ACG
Joanne has ten years’ experience as a corporate governance and compliance professional, predominantly in private sector roles at global organisations across a wide range of industries. Currently a Company Secretary and Compliance Officer at Statkraft, Joanne is responsible for subsidiary management. This means she works on share transfers, company reductions, strike offs and even incorporating new entities.
No day is ever typical, which is something Joanne loves about working in governance. It’s a varied and challenging role that sees her fielding queries, working on her board meetings, and shareholder and stakeholder management. Using an electronic database for registers helps her keep everything in order.
One of the things about a career in governance that appealed to Joanne was the number of different career paths that were available, it isn’t a straight-line career, but more of a matrix of choices. You can qualify while you work, you can work across different sectors, you can work internally or for a service provider, the options are varied and allow you to move around having gained several transferrable skills. Over the last 10 years, Joanne has worked in financial services, professional services, marketing and advertising and the renewables sector - one can pretty much move anywhere, it's such a fluid career path to take.
Joanne has seen her confidence grow throughout her career, as someone who used to hate giving presentations and now one of her favourite tasks in her current role is providing training sessions for individuals and other teams. These presentations are just one of the ways that Joanne finds herself interacting with other teams across the organisation.
Joanne struggles to define what part of the job she loves the most, be it working with tax, HR, legal teams, directors and senior management – it’s the people she works with that makes it interesting. Through her career, Joanne has had many experiences, and she values the hands-on knowledge she got in smaller companies. With smaller teams you get to work on more of a variety of projects which set her up for moving into bigger companies and streamlining her skill sets.
Governance isn’t a straight-line career, but more of a matrix of choices.
In this role you're going to have to liaise with other employees from all levels of the business right up to the CEO, teams from across the business and a multitude of stakeholders - communication skills are definitely required.
What is Governance?
Corporate governance is a system of rules, processes, principles, and procedures that determine how a company should be run. It is the way a company acts and how it's perceived by its stakeholders as well.
What is a governance professional?
Governance professionals advise on governance best practice, risk management and compliance. They promote and act as a ‘sounding board’ on standards of ethical and corporate behaviour to the board.
For Joanne, the company secretary is the conscience of the company. It is their role to ensure that the board and senior management are acting in line with the Companies Act 2006, the company’s articles and any other regulations.
It's a company secretary's role to make sure that they and the board are taking into account the interests of all their stakeholders.
The role includes a number of different elements but will definitely touch on ensuring compliance with new regulatory requirements such as modern slavery, bribery, and money laundering. The role will also involve defining processes to make sure they are concise and work across teams. Joanne finds herself working with different legal and finance teams and it is her job to make sure the board is aware of these cross departmental processes and that they remain compliant.
In Joanne’s opinion, the role of the company secretary is becoming better understood as they are more involved in stakeholder management and key strategic decisions of the company. Being involved with more teams means people have a better understanding of what we do and more importantly why we do it.
The route to a career in governance
Joanne started her route into governance with a Law degree at the University of Essex. With a curious mind and a desire to learn, a law degree was something she had always considered – she found it challenging, but she enjoyed it.
Through her degree, she realised that she loved researching, and that her legal interest lay with family and company law. Her work experience placements helped her decide to focus on corporate law.
Jumping straight into a masters in Corporate and Commercial Law, Joanne took the opportunity to gain more knowledge and upon completion took some time out to save for law school. This led to her taking on a number of PA roles in the financial services and IT sectors, and credits these experiences with a boost in her organisational skills. It was while she was overhauling one of their filing systems with their company secretary that she was first made aware of this role.
It was while she was at law school that her real “aha” moment happened. The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland did a talk at her school when the penny dropped. Her interest in corporate law, her work as a PA and now an insight into a role that seemed perfect for her.
Following law school she was mid internship when her company put her forward for a governance role with one of their clients. After 5 years of study she was there. When she moved her career to GSK, she found a mentor in her boss who was a fountain of knowledge and she learned everything she could from him. While she hadn’t yet taken her exams through the Institute, she knew this was her next career move.
The essential skills for success in governance
In every role, the ability to research has come in handy. It helps you to think analytically and solve problems. When legal changes and updates occur or there are updates to compliance issues, research skills will be relied upon heavily.
Being organised and the ability to prioritise is an essential skill for a governance professional. You will need to oversee the board meeting management, have competing projects, manage multiple queries on a regular basis from shareholders, directors and other stakeholders.
Every day you will need to speak to people, so communication skills are necessary. In this role you're going to have to liaise with other employees from all levels of the business right up to the CEO, teams from across the business and a multitude of stakeholder - communication skills are definitely required.
Joanne has had many career highlights to date. Her top one would be singlehandedly project managing the implementation of the requirements of the Modern Slavery Act 2014 in her previous and current roles which resulted in her carrying out an audit of current company processes, putting together a training programme for relevant employees, drafting and communicating new policies and processes to all employees in the company. This resulted in saving the companies thousands on external legal fees and use of a framework still in place today.
How did the Institute support your career as a governance professional?
After that chance presentation Joanne attended in law school, she knew that qualifying with the Institute was something she wanted to do. When she started working at RFIB, they supported her through the Qualifying Programme.
Joanne found the programme useful, especially the financial module as she had come from a legal background. She even finds herself referring back to the module before going for interviews, just to refresh her knowledge.
Joanne also refers to the Institute for updates on the law and tips and guidance for company secretaries – and has found it useful when looking for a new role.
Words of wisdom for the next generation of governance professionals?
Practice makes perfect. “The first time I was in the boardroom on my own I had to take minutes and I didn’t speak up. I felt like I had impostor syndrome. I was nervous and new. The characters in the room were strong. But I kept attending meetings, got to know the board, built a good relationship with the Chair and found my voice. I grew into the role.”
Try and get as much hands-on experience as you can in all areas of co-sec so that you are not pigeonholed into just one area and can decide the best area that suits your needs. This can usually be done through smaller private companies.