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Oct 27, 2016

Five key success factors for corporate secretaries

Top corporate secretaries must excel across a range of areas

A corporate secretary wears many hats: adviser, educator, diplomat, record-keeper, communicator, problem-solver. Corporate secretaries balance a lengthy list of responsibilities, including acting as a liaison between employees at all organizational levels. A successful corporate secretary possesses not only a knowledge base, but also the attitudes and personal qualities that reflect the values of an organization, intangibles that aren’t covered in a job description; personality traits and qualities may be as important as accomplishing tasks. The following list, while not exhaustive, presents five crucial areas for achieving corporate secretary success.

1. Exceptional organizational skills: Corporate secretaries need to be methodical and systematic in their responsibilities. The sheer amount of information they need to know in order to do their job effectively requires them to be expert record-keepers. They must be aware of compliance-related deadlines for documenting and taking action in order to follow government regulations, and they must keep up to date on corporate documents and maintain records about compliance with state and federal laws.

2. Knowledge: Corporate secretaries must have a thorough understanding of all aspects of the company’s business. This includes knowledge of legal procedures and terminology, especially regarding insurance, taxes and human resources.

3. Excellent communication skills: Corporate secretaries educate as well as inform and act as the liaison between the board, senior management and shareholders. They must be adept at communicating with employees at all levels in the organization. They supply the board with information in advance of meetings so it can make good decisions and they advise the board and officers on corporate governance, regulatory/legal requirements and ethics concerns, while keeping up to date on trends, issues and regulations that affect the company.

4. Well-developed analytic skills: Successful corporate secretaries are detail-oriented problem-solvers who can create company policies and guidelines. They have the ability to digest, distill and master large quantities of information, often in a short time frame. Their job also requires an ability to understand and interpret legal jargon and complex language in order to present information to board members and senior officers. Often a corporate secretary is tasked with assessing the board’s structure and governance practices and suggesting ways for it to improve its performance.  

5. Honesty and trustworthiness: It goes without saying that corporate secretaries should possess integrity. They know a company’s financial information and other sensitive information about the organization and must use discretion and be able to keep confidential information. Often, their work involves ensuring the board and senior officers comply with laws and regulations and conform to stated policies.