CSj interviews HKICS Chief Executive Samantha Suen FCIS FCS(PE) on her strategic goals for the HKICS.

What are your aspirations as Chief Executive of the HKICS?

‘As Chief Executive of the HKICS, I help Council formulate strategies to develop the Institute and profession, and I lead the secretariat team in implementing such strategies. I also act as a representative or ambassador for the Institute in building better working relationships with our stakeholders locally, regionally and globally.

Another key part of my role is to build up a talented team at the secretariat to provide quality and proactive services to our stakeholders, especially to members, and to build the profile of our profession. I believe the secretariat can take a leading role in promoting high standards – especially good corporate governance and ethical standards. In addition to the above, I’d also like to improve the loyalty and passion of our students and members for the Institute.’

What are the benefits for members of getting involved with the Institute’s work?

‘I was involved in the Institute’s work when I was a student at the Hong Kong Polytechnic many years ago. I also joined an Institute working group and later on became a Council member and President after my graduation. Getting involved in the Institute’s work provided me with great opportunities to learn from members of Council and its committees. It is immensely rewarding to contribute to the growth and development of the Institute. Members’ involvement certainly brings benefits to current members but, perhaps more importantly, it also benefits future members. I feel proud of my involvement.’

What is your strategy relating to professional development?

‘Professional development is an important area for us. We need to keep our members up to date with new regulations so as to help them fulfil their job duties and to mitigate the risk for the companies they serve.

The primary way we do that, of course, is via our CPD programme. I am working to achieve a more structured training programme for different levels of company secretaries and governance, compliance and risk management professionals. I think we should also offer training to directors and other senior management personnel in listed and private corporations as well as charitable organisations. We are also looking into providing more practical workshops, technical seminars and high-level roundtable discussions, as well as online learning programmes for busy company secretaries and executives who have tight deadlines and travel schedules.

Professional development is not only about CPD, however. As a leading professional Institute, we provide valuable research projects to highlight issues and set new standards and trends in company secretarial and governance topics. Our research reports also help our advocacy work and this is another area I am keen to develop. I am planning to strengthen our Marketing & Communication team. We need to get our message regarding the value that the Institute and Chartered Secretaries bring to the corporate world and the community to a broader audience.’

What is your strategy relating to member services?

‘This is another important area. As an Institute established by members and for members, we should provide quality services to our members. I’d like to approach this area with a more personal touch – in particular I think we need to listen to members’ views and needs. I am therefore planning a series of focus group discussions for fellows, associates, graduates and students to find out their needs and views. One thing to bear in mind is that many of our members are also members of other professional bodies. I hope that we can offer a platform for them to consider the HKICS as their home.

As mentioned earlier, I also aim to encourage members to get closer to the Institute by getting more involved in our work. This will maximise the good results from our members’ services and will help nurture future leaders of the Institute. For example, I have invited four members to join our 2015 Annual Dinner Organising Committee. With their help, I’m sure we’ll be able to present a very special Annual Dinner on 14 January 2015.

I believe that, as professionals, we should also contribute more to the community. I am planning to set up a community service team and we will be organising more activities to help the less fortunate in our society.’

What is your strategy relating to education?

‘The world has become very competitive, especially for the young generation. Our message for undergraduates, as well as senior high school students, is that our profession has a bright future. The business world is increasingly aware of the importance of good governance and ethics and these qualities are becoming essential elements for every individual.

A lot of effort has been put into promoting our profession to universities and undergraduates. The Institute has set up an Academic Advisory Panel with representatives from local universities to enhance our relationship with academia and the universities. I intend to continue this work and to maintain the high standard of our examinations and collaborative master’s degree programmes. I would also like to improve the support services we offer to our students to help them obtain their qualifications as soon as possible. Moreover, the ICSA is going to review the current IQS examination syllabus with a view to bringing us more in line with the future needs of our community.’

The global ties of the Institute have been strengthening; could we discuss the new ICSA structure and the Institute’s role as the ICSA China Division?

‘The structural reforms to the ICSA are a very exciting development. I have attended two ICSA Council meetings this year and found all Council members to be enthusiastic about making the ICSA the leading global professional institute in governance. Council is also keen to reach out to the divisions.

Accordingly, the second Council meeting in 2014 was held in Hong Kong. The ICSA Executive Committee and its President and Vice-President met with Hong Kong and Shanghai regulators respectively when they were in this part of the world in October. They took the opportunity to update local regulators on our developments and to listen to their advice on the development of the Chartered Secretarial profession. The 2015 Council meetings will be held in London in March and Kuala Lumpur in September.

Regarding the HKICS role as the ICSA China Division, I am working to speed up our efforts in promoting the profession in Mainland China. The Chartered Secretarial qualification is an international qualification and there is currently a lot of interest in Mainland China in international standards of corporate governance and corporate secretaryship – not only among multinational corporations and foreign investors. China offers a lot of opportunity for our Hong Kong members and I think the HKICS, as the ICSA China Division, is well placed to expand its involvement in the development of the profession in Mainland China.’

Do you have any comments on the future career path for students joining the Chartered Secretarial profession in Hong Kong?

‘This career path is very promising. Students should try to join a well-known professional firm or listed company to learn the basics and work their way up through the career gradually. At the same time, students should acquire technical knowledge by attending the Institute’s CPD seminars and workshops and should get involved in the Institute’s activities and working groups. Corporate secretaries need to be hard working, and they also need interpersonal skills and a good general business knowledge as they climb the corporate ladder. Bear in mind that practitioners need to communicate with very senior people – the chairman of the board, directors, senior managers and external stakeholders.’