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Bright prospects for practising company secretaries
February, 08th 2007
With compliance management becoming more important the number of practising company secretaries is bound to go up.


Ms Preeti Malhotra has been elected as president of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) with effect from January 19. MsMalhotra, a Fellow Member of the ICSI, is currently the director and company secretary of Spice Communications Ltd, a cellular service provider. She was the vice-president of the ICSI during 2006. She was the first woman to be elected as the Central Council member of the ICSI for a three-year term (2004-2006) and re-elected as the Central Council member for the second successive term (2007-2010). She was Chairman of NIRC of the ICSI in 2002.

Ms Malhotra was a member of the Dr J. J. Irani Expert Committee, constituted by the Ministry of Company Affairs to advise the Government on the new company law. She was also invited by the OECD to participate in the Asian Round Table discussions on corporate governance in 2005 and 2006. She was awarded the prestigious Bharat Nirman Talented Ladies Award in 2003. In this interview to Business Line, she discusses a whole range of issues concerning the Institute and the profession:

What are your immediate priorities for the Members?

For members, who are the lifeline of the Institute, my first priority will be to expand the opportunities available to them in banking, insurance, capital markets, corporate governance, labour laws, competition and consumer protection laws, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), VAT and the co-operative sectors.

We will intensify capacity building in these priority areas and also impress upon the Government, regulatory authorities and industry about the value-add that company secretaries can offer in the interest of all stakeholders, as a contribution to nation building.

To increase the opportunities for international networking for our members, we have been organising conferences and fellowship programmes in other countries. We have also initiated the setting up of the International Federation of Company Secretaries (IFCS), for building up a global movement and global harmonisation of corporate governance, compliances and secretarial advisory services. I will take steps to intensify these initiatives and, in the current year, see that the initiative for International Secretarial Standards crystallises under the IFCS banner.

The project of preparing country-specific publications by the ICSI will be further accelerated to provide sharper edge to our members in their international work.

We will also create an environment for our practising members to form mega firms and multi-disciplinary firms to make their services globally competitive.

The Institute will also create better networking with international organisations of repute to further build up the international image of company secretaries.

Is the ratio between practising and non-practising company secretaries healthy?

It is true that the number of company secretaries in employment is much larger than that in practice. But the number of company secretaries in practice has been rising fast in recent times because of the expanding opportunities in statutory as well as non-statutory professional work.

Further, by having Practising Company Secretaries Committees functional at the Central, Regional Council and Chapter levels, we have taken steps to ensure that there is smoother and faster growth in their number and in the quality of their services.

As we open up more and more practice areas and strengthen the skills of practising members in newer areas such as competition law and NCLT, the imbalance will be corrected ahead of time.

With compliance management becoming more important and corporate governance-related services, both under new Clause 49 of the Listing Agreement and in general, becoming a corporate necessity, the number of practising company secretaries is bound to go up. Further, because of the structure of MCA 21, non-compliance is going to become impossible. This will also increase the demand for practising company secretaries.

Are newer avenues opening up for practising secretaries?

Practising company secretaries are rendering services in multiple areas such as finance, banking, insurance, valuation, mergers, amalgamations and takeovers, due diligence, indirect and direct taxes, management consultancy, international commerce and information technology.

Apart from innovative services they have carved out in practice, regulatory authorities in capital markets (SEBI, stock exchanges, etc) have also recognised their services in the form of various certifications. So has the Reserve Bank of India in connection with FEMA and Foreign Trade Policy. They have also been recognised by certain State VAT authorities, the Central Electricity Authority, the Telecom Regulatory Authority, the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal, and the Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal to appear as authorised representatives. The Trade Marks Act, 1999 also recognises them as Trade Mark Agents. The Competition Act, 2002 authorises them to appear before the Competition Commission of India. Thus, more and more areas are being carved out for practising company secretaries.

Any novel initiatives to further continuing professional education (CPE) for members.

We have already launched the Post Membership Qualification Course in corporate governance. This is a path-breaking initiative because of the increasing importance of this specialisation.

Further, we are designing capacity building courses in capital markets, IPOs, competition laws, labour laws, intellectual property rights, etc. We are working with stock exchanges to build courses in corporate governance certification, intermediaries' compliance certifications, etc. To develop capacities of our members in the Telecom Regulatory Authority, Electricity Regulatory Authority and a host other regulatory authorities that have recognised company secretaries to act as authorised representatives, we will be conducting programmes and courses in specialised areas.

D. Murali

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