Governance professionals are at the forefront of the many changes sweeping through the business environment globally and locally. In her speech at The Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries (the Institute) Annual Dinner 2020, Institute President Gillian Meller FCIS FCS highlighted the work of the Institute in preparing practitioners for their current and future roles.

would like to take this opportunity to give you a quick review of where our Institute currently stands and a preview of where I hope we will be heading in the year, and years, ahead.

Where we stand

First of all, I am pleased to report that our Institute is in good financial health. This is clearly a prerequisite for everything we hope to achieve. In addition, our membership continues to grow. We currently have over 6,200 members and this number has been growing at a steady pace.

To these vital statistics, I would like to add that we have also built up a healthy reputation as a thought leader in company secretarial practice and corporate governance. The work we do in training future Chartered Secretaries and Chartered Governance Professionals – in our continuing professional development (CPD) and membership events; our guidance and research; as well as our publications and consultation submissions – has made us a leading stakeholder in the promotion of good corporate governance in Hong Kong and the Mainland, regionally and internationally.

The rising number, and increasing diversity, of people coming to our CPD events in Hong Kong and the Mainland is a good indicator of this. Last year we had a record-breaking attendance at our 20th Annual Corporate and Regulatory Update (ACRU 2019), with over 2,000 participants. This year’s ACRU will be held on 5 June and early bird registration will start soon.

Where we are heading

Turning to our future prospects. The political crisis we have experienced, and continue to experience, here in Hong Kong has posed huge challenges for all of us, as have many of the issues taking place on the wider global stage. As governance professionals, we have been at the forefront of many of those challenges and I believe that there has never been a more important time for good, stakeholder-led, governance. This includes the need for all organisations (not just companies) to engage with and understand the views of their stakeholders, the need for effective risk management and internal control frameworks, and the need for transparent communication and disclosure.

This was a sentiment echoed recently by the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of leading US companies. In August 2019, it published its vision of a modern standard for corporate responsibility, containing a fundamental commitment to all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities, the environment and, of course, shareholders.

This modern vision of governance has also been embraced by the Institute. Since September 2018, the majority of our members in Hong Kong and the Mainland have been awarded the new Chartered Governance Professional designation in addition to the long-established Chartered Secretary designation. On 16 September 2019, our international body adopted its new name – The Chartered Governance Institute. Many of its divisions around the world, including Australia, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand and the UK, have already included the term ‘governance’ in their local institute names and we will be consulting members on a similar name change in the coming months.

Training for the future

As many of you will know, we passed a major educational milestone earlier this month. On 1 January 2020, our Institute’s qualifying programme was upgraded to better reflect the knowledge and skill set that our members will require in their expanded role as governance professionals. The new Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme reflects these changes – the Corporate Governance paper has been upgraded, an entirely new Risk Management paper has been added and a Boardroom Dynamics paper is offered as an elective.

Going forward, we will also be upgrading our Enhanced CPD programme to ensure that it offers training relevant to the current and future roles of our members.

Staying ahead of the curve will also require us to further build our research and advocacy work. We will be working to ensure that our research reports, guidance notes and consultation submissions, together with our monthly journal, help us and the wider community stay up to date with frontier topics in governance and the latest technical areas of practice.

This year will also see the return of our biennial Corporate Governance Conference (CGC). Our CGC 2020 will be held on 25 September with the theme ‘Building the Modern Board: a 2020 Vision’. At the conference, we will be addressing the many different aspects relevant to enhancing effective decision-making by a board – a topic of core relevance to all governance professionals. I hope to see many of you there.

A word of thanks

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank, on behalf of the Institute, the many people who have contributed to our work. Thanks are due to the government representatives and regulators who have supported our seminars and conferences, and worked with us on policy formation and legislative reform via public and soft consultations.

I would also like to thank those who have contributed their expertise and time to the work of our committees, panels, working groups and advisory boards. This includes colleagues from fellow professional firms and institutes, as well as from academia, who have worked with us for many years to further our educational, CPD and research initiatives.

Thanks are also due to our past chairmen and presidents, Council and committee members, members, graduates and students, here in Hong Kong and the Mainland. I would also like to thank the staff of our Secretariat and, of course, our Chief Executive Samantha Suen FCIS FCS(PE).

I hope the Year of the Rat brings health, happiness, prosperity and harmony to Hong Kong and to us all.

This article is based on the speech by Institute President Gillian Meller at The Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries Annual Dinner held on 16 January 2020 at the JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong.