1. What inspired you to pursue a career in this field, and how did you get started?
It’s all about challenging the status quo and for me that meant a career change from accountancy to company secretarial and supporting boards. I was firstly inspired through a recruitment agency who took the time to assess my skills and thought laterally about how I could apply them.
And the opportunity was what inspired me - an entrepreneurial leader and culture which believed in people and gave opportunities. I was eager to learn and support the company. Throughout my career, the desire and motivation to have a positive impact inspires and drives me. That’s something that I have the opportunity to do every day, as a company secretary and now as an advisor on corporate governance.
2. What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?
Balancing a commitment to perform my role to the best of my ability, and enjoying that, with wanting to be a supportive and loving parent! I overcame this by periodically assessing whether I’d achieved the right balance, resetting boundaries, talking, and considering what was within my control to change. Over the years this has been a change in career, working part-time (in paid employment - parenthood is always full -time!), setting up my own consultancy business…there is a pattern here!
3. What do you consider to be your greatest strengths or areas of expertise, and how have you developed them over time?
A commercial, outward looking approach and an ethos of “Doing the right thing” whatever it may be. And that means understanding the need and the drivers and offering support to deliver that need.
I’ve developed this over-time, firstly by being a management accountant collaborating with commercial teams such as sales, marketing, supply chain, involved in new product development and routes to market. Secondly starting my company secretarial career in an entrepreneurial company, where the dynamics of global market and external factors were felt everyday given the sector the business was in.
Observing and being part of the Board and company’s evolution of strategy and management of risks was a great learning experience. In times of change, this is where corporate governance and the benefits really come to the fore. Thirdly, I learnt so much when setting up my own consultancy business – I wore many hats. But at the core, I was a company secretary operating in different companies, gaining experience of large M&A transactions, setting up corporate governance structures, drafting the first detailed governance report for an Annual Report for a large company, supporting companies as we saw some of the major events of recent times (Grenfell Tower, COVID-19).
In summary, my greatest strength is believing in what I do and being passionate and motivated. I’m always looking to deliver a positive change or impact or to support others in doing that. In this case corporate governance advice which covers a myriad of areas and increasingly covers ESG. Wider than that, I want EQ Advisory within the EQ business to succeed and for everyone to understand how we can not only support but influence change.
4. Can you share a project or accomplishment that you are particularly proud of, and what was your role in making it happen?
At this stage in my career, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in many projects where I’ve been proud of what we’ve achieved, so it’s difficult to choose! Before EQ and thinking of my career as a Group Company Secretary, it would have to be winning an ISCA (now CGI) award for our Annual Report disclosures. I drafted the Corporate Governance section from a blank piece of paper, and clearly this resonated, alongside revamping the website which set out the governance framework of the company.
Here at EQ, we support our clients daily, so there are many moments to feel proud about what we do. Speaking today, it is the launch of our new Net Zero initiatives product, which I project managed, and we brought to market in the first half of 2023. Developing the concept and seeing that brought to reality as a product and selling that to our clients is one of the proudest and most satisfying achievements, all possible through teamwork and people believing in the vision. If we make one difference because of this product, then I will be happy to say we have helped to support the drive to Net Zero.
5. How do you stay up to date with the latest industry trends and developments, and what resources do you rely on?
Interesting question! Firstly, I follow reputable sources on LinkedIn (the CGI UK & Ireland, our professional body, legal firms etc), secondly I have a team who is passionate about corporate governance and research so daily we are learning and developing, thirdly – trends are what our clients look to us for advice on, so we track trends, regularly provide updates with webinars, and I also attend webinars. We have many external resources, but what’s important is the practical experience to support our technical knowledge – that’s what cannot be gained easily and is a precious source of shared knowledge throughout EQ and our clients.
6. What advice would you give to yourself if you were starting out in your career?
Take as many varied opportunities to get involved in different things as possible! The depth and breadth of experience is what can make you a trusted advisor in the boardroom, and not just someone with the role title. Consider lateral moves into other functions – see what excites you!
7. How do you balance the need to be detail-oriented with the need to keep an eye on the bigger picture?
By not thinking you have to do everything yourself! Trust others to do the job, delegate, provide the right training and control framework to support, and then you can advise, guide, and think about the bigger picture. It’s a journey I’ve been on all my life – perhaps experience and time is what gets you there but give me a good detailed corporate governance challenge and you’ll still see me in the detail!
8 What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in this field during your career, and how have you adapted to them?
An obvious statement, but the move to virtual working which shows how adaptable and solution-oriented company secretaries can be. Proofreading an annual report as part of a team over MS Teams during lockdown, well, who would have thought that ever possible?!
Aside from that, the focus on the benefits of corporate governance, as a career and on the board agenda has really grown. I would like to think that this has driven positive outcomes in terms of how companies are run and the values they promote, for the benefit of many stakeholders.
9. Finally, what do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges facing your field in the next few years.
The pace and volume of regulation and requirements continues to be a challenge. UK plc needs to change and adapt to keep its place on the global stage so whilst a challenge, we need change.
But therein lies an opportunity – to influence, to embrace, to support boards and companies on embedding these requirements and overall believing in the need and then “doing the right thing.”
A big thank you to Anne-Marie for sharing her thoughts with us, we hope you found this useful.