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In recent years, there has been a surge in talent demand for governance professionals. Even in the face of the ongoing pandemic, the governance profession is still growing steadily. 

Many organisations from listed companies, smaller private companies, NGOS, to government-related organisations are realising that not only do they need company secretaries, they also need talents that can perform broader governance roles. 

The Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries (HKICS) – an independent professional institute representing secretaries and governance professionals in Greater China – revamped its existing international qualifying scheme and launched the Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme (CGQP) earlier this year. 

The new syllabus is designed to build knowledge, skills and confidence in governance in candidates to meet the demand for company secretaries, governance professionals, risk managers, compliance executives and directors across the private, public, listed and not-for-profit sectors. Candidates with eligible qualifications such as law, accounting and management may be granted exemptions.

‘The launch of the CGQP recognises the changing roles and responsibilities of secretaries and governance practitioners in an increasingly regulated and risk-conscious business environment,’ said Gill Meller, the president of Chartered Secretaries.

Meller, who is also the legal and European business director at MTR, shares below why the governance profession in Hong Kong is thriving. 

gillian meller photo

Human Resources: The career path of governance professional is wide open. Various positions such as head of governance officer, AML Advisory Policy, Financial Crime Compliance, head of operations risk management and fraud control officer are available for a qualified governance professional. What are the common grounds for these positions?

Meller: Let's take a step back and think about what corporate governance is all about. Corporate governance is about making sure an organisation is properly run in the best interest in all of its stakeholders – including employees, shareholders, local community and shareholders.

Years ago, companies could get away with the mindset that if something was legal and it was in the best interest of the company, that would be enough. In today’s world, the decision is much more complicated.

For example, the Employment Support Scheme (ESS). In theory, every company that is eligible should have applied for the support scheme because it’s money coming to the company, which must be a good thing. But nowadays, it’s much more complicated than that. 

It’s not as simple as saying if it’s legal or financially positive for the companies, then companies should take it. Companies also have to take into account whether it fits all of the stakeholders’ interest: What would the community think about us? Would they think we are greedy by applying this? How would our employees and customers see us? If we don’t apply, are employees going to think we are going to make them redundant?

The role of a governance professional is to help companies and organisations understand the situation, work through those competing stakeholders interest and try to help those companies come up with the best solution.

What attracts talents to embark on a career path of governance professional?

People can see that this is a growing industry and profession. People can see regulations from all around the world is changing. Hong Kong is known for having a pretty light touch in regulations. Even so, there are also recent updates on the company ordinance and new regulations such as competition ordinance. Apart from that, there is also a growing number of listed companies from mainland china and overseas. As part of their IPO process, they need to find a qualified company secretary.

What does an excellent governance professional look like?

A good governance professional needs to have an eye for detail. They should be able to see the bigger picture such as business change and regulation change. They should also meet stakeholders' expectation, take the changing factors into account and advise CEOs or your board accordingly.