General Counsel & Company Secretary - FTSE 250
The new year is a fantastic time to not only reflect on the previous year but an appropriate time to look forward as well. Two of our leading Governance Consultants have joined forces and combined their experience and expertise to provide a full review of the blockbuster governance recruitment year that was 2021 and the high hopes for 2022. Senior Consultant, Poppy Taylor will delve into the past while Principal Consultant, Connor Simms looks to the future. Take it away, Poppy!
As governance professionals are aware, the employment market boomed throughout 2021. This was due to a combination of governance teams expanding, the increased influence of governance teams during the seemingly never-ending pandemic, recovering from 2020’s hiring ban, and natural attrition which we see year-on-year. The boom wasn’t sector specific, with expansion and replacement hires happening from across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. DMJ had a very busy and successful year working with our clients and candidates by offering support and advice in a fast-moving, ever-changing marketplace.
The Assistant Company Secretary level made up the majority of new instructions between January – June 2021, with this mid-level mainstay being sought after across all sectors. This is not a new trend, in fact when we look back over the last 5 years, the proportion of mid-level roles has remained relatively stable principally because this is where number of roles is greatest and you will find most movement. As a demographic, Assistant company secretaries are at a point in their lives and careers where they are more likely to be actively seeking a career progression move, or considering taking a sabbatical, getting married and having a family. Alongside a dynamic and changing market and significant changes in regulation and legislation, this has fed the demand from companies who require mid-level support on both a permanent or interim basis. A combination of uncertainty and enhanced methods of retention brought fewer Assistants to the market which stifled supply and placed a corresponding upwards pressure on salaries to an all-time high.
In the early summer, as workers returned to offices and the ACS hiring levelled off, the Trainee Market came to life, with a record number of instructions over the summer. This wave of recruitment was welcomed, with the DMJ Insight Days sourcing excellent quality candidates and promising young governance professionals coming out of university in 2020 with genuine prospects of securing a role. A flow of new talent into the market is a critical resource that had been missing for 18 months and will go some way to ease some of the supply pressures at the Assistant level in the next few years. Regrettably this has slowed more recently due to the emergence of Omicron as managing a trainee is much harder to do remotely than in person, something we’ve heard consistently across the market.
In the final part of 2021, we saw an uptake in Company Secretarial Assistant and Deputy Company Secretary hires. The CoSec Assistant market has its own difficulties with few trainees being hired from early 2020, there was a practically no one with 18 months or less experience for the market to consider. With clients being understanding of the market and open to salary recommendations, the CSA market has been kept at a stable salary range. With the candidate pool finally growing in 2021, we expect increased stability across all CoSec levels. The increase in Deputy CoSec can be attributed to the resurgence of the IPO market, better succession planning, team expansion or the decision to split the GC/CoSec role. This appears to be a natural post pandemic progression, and a trend we expect to continue.
Over to you, Connor! What does 2022 hold for us?
2021 was certainly an interesting market for Company Secretaries and Governance Professionals, as the UK economy continues to deal with the ever-changing situation regarding the Covid 19 pandemic. This has placed considerable pressure on workload and has fuelled the demand for recruitment at all levels. We have documented this closely in our regular market updates and salary guide, but this is a changing situation and as such the data is keeping us dialled in to what trends we might expect to see in 2022.
Most governance professionals we speak to expect companies expect to return to the workplace on a more structured and organised basis by March/April 2022. This will coincide with a considerable increase in recruitment at the Trainee and CoSec Assistant levels as companies look to combat the ever-increasing challenges of attracting talent at the Assistant and Senior Assistant Company Secretary levels. Most companies have modified their recruitment processes to meet the changing needs of the junior market. Whereas previously these candidates were more open minded about where their next move may take them, now we are seeing much more specific requirements before agreeing to formally engage. These include understanding career progression plans, company culture, ESG Agenda, who they’ll be reporting to/engaging with and taking a much closer look at how an employer will support their ongoing professional development.
Will this be the year more roles are split?
With the increasing scope and importance of governance will we see more GC/CoSec roles split? The jury is out on this one as we’ve seen over the past 3-4 years that most experienced GC’s have often recruited talented Deputies that become CoSec in all but title which has almost redefined the role of the Deputy within some companies. This will remain an issue for any governance professional looking for the board appointment, but for many the range of responsibility and influence within the business is enough to attract them away from their current role. There have certainly been a number of roles within smaller, internationally focused or regulated businesses that have split the GC/CoSec in order to push the governance agenda, however the numbers are still relatively small to call this a trend.
What are Companies Doing to Improve Candidate Attraction?
Companies are employing more creative recruitment strategies, using other benefits and methods outside what you would typically expect of a typical recruitment process. Coffee briefings, creation of prospectus packs to highlight the people, culture and vision and values of a business are just some examples of the tools now being used.
There has been a 250% increase in Executive Search for Deputy and Group level roles. This is particularly true for companies recruiting their first dedicated Company Secretary and for those organisations going through significant structural change e.g. IPO. Employing a retained search allows for a far more comprehensive look at the market, resulting in a stronger candidate shortlist and suitability based on the individual company requirements.