Hong Kong's company secretaries are smooth operators
April Chan, company secretary of energy provider CLP Group, says her job is like that of a butler.
"I work closely with the chairperson and top management to take care of various aspects of the company's operation. I am sure every chairperson has the company secretary on speed dial," says Chan, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries (HKICS).
In Hong Kong, listed companies are required by law to have a chartered secretary registered with HKICS.
According to Chan, a company secretary ensures the business complies with the law, advises on how to cope with regulatory changes, manages board meetings and maintains communication with shareholders. They also have to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in corporate governance practices in Hong Kong and around the world.
They should have excellent interpersonal skills, as they will have to build relationships with regulators such as the Hong Kong stock exchange, shareholders and different departments of the company. It is also important to be creative, when producing annual reports and organising annual meetings, Chan adds.
A company secretary usually heads a firm's secretarial department, which is staffed by a deputy company secretary, company secretary officers and company secretary assistants.
The latter, required to register as a student with HKICS, is often the starting point of a company secretary's career. After passing the international qualifying scheme - a written examination - and gaining three years' working experience, an assistant becomes a chartered secretary and an associate member of HKICS.
A chartered secretary is eligible for the roles of company secretary officer or deputy company secretary.
Company secretaries usually have at least eight years' experience. Company secretary assistants receive a monthly salary of about HK$10,000, while officers earn between HK$20,000 and HK$30,000. Deputies are paid from HK$50,000 to HK$90,000 and company secretaries make more, with some earning over HK$100,000 a month.