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Governance Market Update - Q4 2021

Posted 23/11/2021 by David Press
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As we fast approach the festive period, we can begin to reflect what has been a remarkable year for the company secretarial market.  Recruitment levels are a definite improvement compared to those experienced in 2020 and a return to volumes we last experienced back in 2019.  Recruitment is happening at every level across all sectors, even those hardest hit by the pandemic, proving just how ‘front and centre’ governance has become irrespective of the relative health of the economy.

There are however some standout trends, some of which were beginning to emerge when we published our latest salary guide (download here) but have become more evident since. The first of which is the resurgence of the IPO market. Market confidence is what drives this and we have seen a 250% increase in the number of instructions at the Deputy & Group level in Q3 which has created quite a lot of excitement in CoSec circles.  That said, these are not always easy roles to fill as there is no guarantee the float will get away, so those in permanent PLC roles will take a cautious approach to making the move.  Some companies have opted to bring in a senior interim consultant to help pre-IPO and once listed assist with the search for a permanent Deputy or Group Company Secretary.  Day rates for such consultants now start at £1000. If 50% of the IPO’s are successful this will lead to some fantastic new openings at the junior to mid-level in 2022 and for many professionals at this level, joining a company just after IPO is an opportune time to help embed governance, internal systems and procedures and build the culture of the function.

The war for talent at the Assistant Company Secretary level continues unabated.  Lots of demand and restrictive supply has caused a bottleneck and continues to push salaries upwards.  Salaries for Assistants at some of the largest PLCs are now nudging £90k, although a more typical range is £65-80k. 90% of all placements at this level are now filled by individuals that were not actively looking to move. For recruiters, the need to understand an individual’s career journey and aspirations has never been more important. The issue of rising salaries at this level has caused some debate especially for employers that do not recruit that often and have more modest budgets to play with.  Many are having to either face the reality of paying more to attract top talent, or recruit at a more junior level and invest in structured training and development. 

The professional services market has also seen record breaking activity and most firms have a defined 3 year growth strategy.  Many firms are have difficulty recruiting at the Assistant Manager and Manager level and have said that they are having to turn away work, unable to allocate the resource needed to effectively service the client. Some have resorted to outsourcing some of the junior work overseas, a good strategy and cost effective too. Others have decided to invest in trainee hires with a view to locking in bright and enthusiastic graduate talent, who often are driven to take on lots of work and who quickly mould into the corporate culture.

The Not-For-Profit sector has also seen somewhat of a resurgence these past few months.  Many are well funded organisations that understand the importance of governance and will not compromise on the support they require.  A growing number of commercial company secretaries that have reflected on their careers post covid are now considering a move to the NFP sector – wishing to focus less on profit generation and more on the importance of ‘ethics and values’ when choosing an employer.

ESG remains the hot topic and governance professionals at all levels are talking about the importance of developing frameworks into existing governance infrastructure.  For the next generation of company secretaries it is ESG, alongside diversity & inclusion and mental wellbeing that are becoming key factors when considering which company they would like to work for.  Recruiters always talk about the interview process being a ‘two-way street’, never has this been truer than now.

2022 will be another busy year for the governance market.  We fully expect some of the major IPOs to happen and truth be told, market confidence will soar on the back of this.  We expect continued demand at all levels with hotspots in the market being Banking & Finance, Insurance, Construction, professional services, TMT and support services.  There will undoubtedly be a levelling off at some point, but for now let’s all be thankful for a buoyant market.

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