How board secretaries are enabling strategic decision-making

From advising on legal compliance and regulatory issues to taking responsibility for board meetings and documents, the role of board, or company, secretary has always been varied. Traditionally defined as a board-level independent advisor on corporate governance issues, we are now seeing the role evolve quite significantly.

2.November 2022
Written by Admincontrol

Facilitating collaboration and communication is a core component of the board secretary role, not least in the hybrid working age with employees and board members often working from home or on the go. Managing governance and regulatory matters is still a key factor too, but the growth in importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors to investors, and the rise of cybersecurity risks, means the remit of the role is widening.

Facilitators and enablers

Some describe them as facilitators and enablers of effectiveness, expanding their role into providing insight, foresight and hindsight to the chair and board. Additionally, the threat of cyber-attacks, data privacy breaches and digital transformation is of huge concern. And now with artificial intelligence (AI) being trialled in the boardroom, and the prediction that the C-suite will need to become increasingly agile, the role of the board secretary and the tech they rely on will become ever more important. 

Board secretaries are therefore well placed to drive the implementation of policies and practices that help safeguard corporate reputation and increase efficiency and security. Guiding the board on these critical aspects and how the hybrid approach is impacting the organisation’s people, customers and processes is likely to become more fundamental to the role and the skills needed to succeed. 

Board secretaries are well placed to drive the implementation of policies and practices that help safeguard corporate reputation and increase efficiency and security.

The impact of hybrid working

For board work, hybrid working presents both challenges and opportunities. Some CEOs point to more efficient meetings through reduced travel, shorter meeting agendas and even bolder, more honest conversations. However, there are still a lot of technical and practical challenges for board secretaries to manage. 

Ensuring each board member has the tech and documentation they need for a productive meeting is essential for efficient collaboration and discussion. Board secretaries have had to adapt to new ways of working too. Managing virtual meetings isn’t always easy, especially if attendees are based in different areas or time zones. 

Collating and distributing board documents such as minutes, board packs and financial reports is time-consuming and admin-heavy when most of the attendees are not in the office. Increasingly, the board secretary needs to organise all of these tasks remotely, and yet relying on email is too much of a security risk. 

Embracing digital solutions

To resolve these issues, more and more board secretaries are using digital tools designed specifically for board work. After all, board meetings must still take place, papers prepared and circulated, and regulatory matters still managed. 

Digital solutions such as board portals automate the meeting preparation and management process, providing a secure and digital approach that eases the admin burden while saving time and money too. Users can share, review, and digitally sign board papers in a single platform no matter where they are located or what device they are using. As well as removing the need for endless emails and insecure offline communication, there’s the confidence that everyone has the right document at their fingertips. 

Technology solutions designed for the needs of board work are a vital tool in responding to the demands of hybrid working – both for the leadership team and the board secretary on whom everyone is relying for an efficient process. Not only are these digital tools supporting more effective C-suite collaboration, but they are also freeing up valuable time for the board secretary to focus on strategic issues such as ESG factors, cybersecurity risk management and the 4 Ps of governance – people, purpose, process, and performance. 

In summary, the evolution of the board secretary role is twofold. It’s about embracing technology solutions to make board work easier in our hybrid working world and it’s about a widening of the job remit spending more time focusing on strategic issues. Board portals and technology solutions designed for the needs of board work are some of the enablers of this evolution process.

More on how boards can adapt to today’s challenges is available in our guide to The 5 behaviours of the digital board.

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