Every company requires a Company Secretary, which means there will always be job opportunities for those with this qualification. With the growth of the Indian economy and the setting up of new ventures and business enterprises, the requirement for company secretaries has increased considerably. Not surprising that many organisations today are unable to find professionally trained candidates.
The role of the Company Secretary (CS) is that of an adviser to the management of the company with regard to legal and business matters. The CS is an important member of the corporate management team and assists in the efficient management of a corporate body. All companies with a paid-up share capital of Rs 2 crore or more are required to appoint a Company Secretary, and all companies seeking listing on the stock exchange are required to appoint a full-time Company Secretary.
Work of a CS
Company Secretaries carry out a vast range of services for the company. Some of the major services include: incorporation of the company, management of the public issue, processing of applications for management appointments, remuneration, inter-corporate investments and loans, conducting of meetings of the Board of Directors, and maintenance of records, registers and minutes of meetings. Company secretaries also handle all matters concerning corporate law, central/state sales tax and excise laws, and labour laws. Obtaining of institutional finance, project approvals, permits or licences under FERA (Foreign Exchange Regulation Act), advising on requirements relating to the MRTP Act (Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act) with reference to certain trade practices, are also other areas that a Company Secretary would be expected to handle. Besides, as the authorised official of the company, the Company Secretary signs the annual returns of the company.
For these reasons, the Company Secretary has to interact, co-ordinate, integrate, and co-operate with various other functional heads in a company. Acting as a confidant of the Board of Directors, the Company Secretary counsels the board and other functional heads on the legal implications of any proposal under contemplation and ensures that all legal compliance are adequately and promptly met.
Therefore, a Company Secretary needs to have a multi-disciplinary background in law, management and accounting. The Company Secretary course covers all these aspects of a business enterprise and qualifies you to enter this profession. The Institute of Company Secretaries (ICSI) conducts training programmes, through postal tuition, in three stages – the foundation, intermediate and final, with examinations at the end of each stage. Students are also provided with study material on each subject at the time of admission. The prescribed subjects include business communication, business laws and management, principles of accounting, economics and statistics. A student is also required to have practical experience and undergo practical training during the course studies, in order to qualify for the examination.
Those who have passed the Senior Secondary (plus two) or an equivalent examination can enrol for the foundation course. On the other hand, if you have completed a graduate or postgraduate degree in commerce, or any discipline other than fine arts, or the final examination of the Institute of Costs and Works Accountants of India (ICWAI), the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) or any other equivalent accountancy exam, you can directly enrol for the intermediate examination.
The duration of the foundation course is eight months, after which the intermediate and final examinations can be taken within a gap of one year after each exam.
At the intermediate and final level examinations, you would cover subjects like managerial economics, industrial labour law, taxation, secretarial and management audit and so on. A student who has successfully completed the postal / oral coaching is eligible for admission to the examination.
Examinations are held in June and December every year, at 59 examination centres spread across the country, including an overseas centre in Dubai. The postal training programme leaves candidates ample time to garner practical experience that is an integral part of the study programme for Company Secretaries. During the period of the final course, students have to undergo management apprenticeship/training in a recognised company or with a practising company secretary.
The entire process of training for a career as a Company Secretary is conducted by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India, at the Institutional Area, Lodi Road, New Delhi. It is also the only organisation authorised to conduct the training and the qualifying examinations. The institute has four regional offices at Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai, and Mumbai. In addition, there are four regional councils under their jurisdiction, 45 chapters, and 20 satellite chapters located in various cities.
Those who complete the final examination for Company Secretary would have good job prospects in the corporate sector of both public and private companies. They can also be employed by banks, financial institutions and stock exchanges, and as specialists in the fields of finance, law, accounts and merchant banking. Many companies recruit young professionals to work in the CS department of the organisation and move to a senior position with experience.
Those who want to join the government need to qualify in the UPSC exam for jobs in Grade I to IV in the Accounts branch of the Central Government Law Service. Company Secretaries are also eligible for recruitment on the panel of bodies such as the Bureau of Public Enterprises, and state government financial institutions.
A qualified Company Secretary can also set up practice as an independent company secretary, after obtaining a ‘Certificate of practice’ from the Institute. A CS in practice is authorised to issue certificates and attest documents under the Companies Act 1956, the SEBI Act and the Exim Policy.
Those with an inclination for academics can go in for teaching as lecturers in universities.
The globalisation of the Indian industry and the advent of multinationals has been a boon for Company Secretaries. The responsibilities of Company Secretaries have been considerably extended and their status is now that of the chief functionaries of the corporate sector. They are indispensable to the efficient management of the corporate sector, particularly in cases of mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and so on. Moreover, with a growing legal regulatory framework, in order to ensure the protection of the interests of employees, consumers, creditors, government financial institutions, and the public at large, the role of company secretaries has become established as that of conscience-keepers of their respective companies and custodians of public interest.
Moreover, an experienced Company Secretary, by virtue of expertise and academic background is suited to become a member of the board or the governing body of any organisation. Many senior members have become chairmen, managing directors, and whole-time directors in several reputed companies.
If you have a sound business sense, an interest in commerce and accounts, logical ability with a flair for numbers and good inter-personal skills this is a good career to pursue. Other attributes would include basic common sense, and an ability to negotiate with people at all levels in an organisation.
The writer is a noted career expert