This article first appeared in the National Housing Association UK.

Company secretaries within housing associations, and indeed across all sectors, have seen their role evolve rapidly.

The volatility caused by the pandemic and latterly by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has led to company secretaries working harder than ever. No longer simply operating as administrative assistants to the board, they are increasingly becoming facilitators and enablers of critical board processes to help support the board and sustain good corporate governance. Assisting the directors, particularly the chair – who historically has responsibility for these processes – ensures the board remains effective in these uncertain times.

As enablers and facilitators of critical board process, company secretaries are increasingly being asked to enable improved board effectiveness in practical ways:

Engender four lines of sight

As enablers, company secretaries can add value to the board by ensuring that their directors continue to focus on having four lines of sight – oversight, insight, foresight and hindsight. Too many boards focus on oversight. A good company secretary can ensure that the decision-making capacity and competence of the board is strengthened with visibility across all the four lines of sight.

Support succession planning

Succession planning – identifying and nurturing future chief executives, chairs and directors – is a core role of the board. The company secretary can be a critical enabler to help boards fulfil this important responsibility.

Succession planning is something that company secretaries need to revisit with the board at least once a year. A lack of succession planning potentially leaves an organisation vulnerable through either a poor transition or a period of weakness without a clear leader of the business, board or committee.