Our client was an international Fortune 100 business, looking to hire a new Company Secretary. The existing Company Secretary, who was retiring, was also the General Counsel but the business felt that the combined role was now too big for one individual and so launched two searches – one, with us, for the Company Secretary role and another, with a different firm, for a General Counsel.
We started by gaining input from the Chairman, CEO and CHRO on their expectations of the new Company Secretary and hence the optimal candidate profile; we also spoke to the retiring Company Secretary/General Counsel. In these discussions, it became clear that whilst the Chairman and the incumbent felt the role should be split, the CEO was ambivalent, acknowledging that the combined role was challenging but seeing real value in having someone with oversight across the two areas. We therefore did some research that highlighted, in each quartile of the FTSE 100, how often these roles were combined and what the trends were. From this analysis, he concluded that the case for separation was not clear cut.
Nevertheless, we focused on a search for a new Company Secretary as requested. We used our existing broad and deep knowledge of this marketplace, supplemented by targeted further research, quickly to identify a longlist of possible candidates, including rising stars in big companies looking for the first no.1 role, proven Company Secretaries from smaller businesses and heavyweight candidates who had played the combined role in big multinationals.
We reviewed this longlist with the Chairman and CEO and agreed four candidates for the client to interview; two of these were heavyweight options who were willing to consider the pure Company Secretary role but with the credentials to make a broader contribution. It quickly became clear to both the Chairman and the CEO that one of these was an outstanding candidate, who could comfortably fulfil the combined role and so they decided to offer her this position.
Since joining the business, the new Company Secretary/General Counsel has gone from strength to strength, not only injecting new energy and authority across both halves of her brief, but expanding her role over time to include other related areas. She is regarded as a pivotal voice on the Executive Committee and a source of wise counsel to the Board.