CS Bilu Balakrishnan, F.C.S

The days have done when Company Secretaries (hereafter mentioned as “CS” for brevity) was called up on to take minutes and due pure secretarial works. For layman knowledge, a CS means an individual who has qualified as a CS and enrolled as a Member of The Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI).

Since its inception the CS profession in India was behind the Chartered Accountancy (CA) profession and brand, and was focusing primarily on secretarial works, such as preparing notices, agenda, minutes etc.  But the scenario has changed for the past several years. The real boom now, to a great extend was due to the advent of Companies Act 2013.

Wherever we look, either in the social media or profession related magazines we can see the job opportunities listed and it’s a fact that the demand for qualified CS has been increased and is on a boom !

The shift from Secretarial work to Compliance Officer to Advisor:

Now, in most of the companies a CS is not merely a person to look secretarial matters, but he is acting as a Compliance Officer who is entrusted with the responsibility to guide the Managing Director and the Board of Directors. In fact, he/she is the key officer ensuring Corporate Governance in the company. A CS is acting as a tool to ensure the laws applicable to the company is been complied with in the true “letter” and “spirit”.

It’s a matter of pride to note that in many companies CS acts as the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), Head – Legal, Counsel & Company Secretary, Vice-President (Corporate Legal) and very soon he/she will be acting as Chief Risk Officer (CRO) also.  Essentially a CS in the whole time employment of a company is a part of the Top Management Team !.

The legislative aspect of the profession has also become stronger with the introduction of provisions in Companies Act 2013 with respect to Appointment of Key Managerial Personnel (Sec.203), Secretarial Audit (Sec.204), and Functions of CS (Sec.205).

Companies has started employing a CS, in order to be a Advisor to the board, thus, the board of the company can act well within the law, ensuring compliance and best practices. There is evidence that the role of CS is shifting from Secretarial work to Compliance Officer, and now to an “Advisor”.

The shift from Company Law Secretary to a Company Secretary:

One of most important aspect of the growth of CS profession in India, is that a CS not only focuses on Company Law matters but he/she is also capable of handling compliance matters under Securities Laws, such as Listing Agreements, Takeover Code etc., FEMA Regulations, Labour Law matters, Banking Laws, including Due-Diligence, Competition Law and Indirect Taxation.

Many of the newly qualified CS is well equipped to handle FEMA, SEBI and such other corporate laws matters.

The boom in Practicing Company Secretaries segment:

Yet another aspect of CS profession is the emergence of practicing firms of CS. Earlier corporate only knows CAs and Lawyers as practicing professionals, but, now Practicing Company Secretaries (PCS) also do a level playing role in the consulting and practicing segment. Most of the companies are now regularly consulting a PCS firm for their compliance requirements. Further, relatively medium and large companies shall require the service of a PCS for obtaining certifications / reports which are mandatory under Companies Act and related corporate laws.

The services which are now offered by PCS:

  1. Secretarial Audit
  2. Due-Diligence Reports
  3. Legal Opinion Letters
  4. Search & Status Reports
  5. Designing Compliance Program / Compliance Management Manuals
  6. Project Viability & Strategic Plan
  7. Internal Audit & Risk Assessment

Apart from above there are many regular form certifications and filings with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA).

ICSI – playing a pro-active role:

Any profession can be developed in the right direction only with the constant support and initiatives from the Institute affiliated with. Here comes the role of The Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) which has its head quarters at New Delhi and four regional offices at New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai. The ICSI also have 69 Chapters all over India with 43,000 members and more than 4,00,000 students.

ICSI is playing a pro-active role in the growth of CS profession with various initiatives for its members and students. Recently the Institute has announced many new level playing initiatives such as: CS Olympiad, ICSI Signature Awards, and International Corporate Governance Day etc. Further the Institute is conducting various Research Symposiums and National Conference focusing on Companies Act 2013 and Corporate Governance.

Attractive package attracts youth:

There are reports that an experienced CS in employment is now getting attractive package of rs.1-1.5 Crore annually. Many big recruiting agencies are looking for right CS candidates. The greater demand for company secretaries is also because of “increased focus on good governance amongst new-age companies and next-gen corporate leaders,” said R Balachander, partner and national leader, accounting, compliance and reporting, EY (as reported in ET dated Apr 10, 2016).

The trend of attractive job offers had given a positive interest in the youth, especially from commerce background to join CS course. Further, now-a-days studious CA students are also doing CS course, which add value to them for getting an attractive top position in the company.

To conclude my write-up, I would say the demand for CS both in employment and practice will increase manifold, as the corporate are giving more importance for compliance and governance. I would personally say that the course and the profession requires more branding through media, both print and online, so that the course reaches every nook and corner of the Country !.

Let we all take more initiative to make “CS as one of the most respected & lucrative careers in India” !

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