We speak to Tate & Lyle’s Phoebe Stamford-Moroz about her career so far in Company Secretariat.
Why did you choose a career in Company Secretariat?
I came to Company Secretariat after being a classical musician for a few years, a slightly less common path!
When I realised I wanted to step back from music I found that the key attributes in common between my ‘things I enjoy doing’ and ‘things I’m good at’ lists were those commonly associated with Company Secretaries, such as attention to deal, problem-solving skills and communication. I looked more seriously into the role after talking with a friend from school who was working as a Company Secretary — I was always fascinated by what she did.
How did you approach getting into this career?
The role of a Company Secretary can fly quite under the radar, so research was key to truly understand what the career entailed. I spent a lot of time looking at the ICSA qualification, speaking with people about the profession, and applying for trainee roles. I was lucky to have a family friend who was a Company Secretary, and who kindly walked me through a lot of my initial questions. He also supported me by getting me some work experience, which was crucial for securing my first trainee role.
Is there anything that has surprised you about working in Company Secretariat?
Initially I found myself surprised at just how broad Company Secretariat’s remit can be across an organisation. As I’ve developed I’ve understood that this is often down to good leaders and great Company Secretaries who have used their influence to build trust in stakeholders and ensure that
the team is central to the business’ activities. The wider culture of an organisation and the confidence in the Company Secretariat team are crucial elements in whether the team are used primarily as an administrative function, or engaged in a more proactive advisory role that contributes to the effective implementation of strategy.
What aspect of your role do you enjoy most?
I love the varied nature of the day-to-day role (as every Company Secretary will say, no two days are the same!), and the rich opportunities that are available to work with other departments to expand my knowledge and experience with projects. Equally though, I enjoy the challenge of the annual cycle of events — annual reporting, AGMs, grants, vestings etc. — to build on our work and feedback from the previous year.
What would you consider to be your greatest professional achievement?
I was proud to complete my ICSA exams. When I first started, I failed two exams in one sitting and had to dig deep to work with my dyspraxia and achieve success through the other exams. It was really hard seeing peers leap through the exams so quickly and doubt if I was cut out for the profession I’d been so excited by, but I’m thrilled that I pushed ahead with all the support my past and current teams gave me.
How important has networking been to your progress and how do you think it can benefit your future career?
It’s been so key! I’ve been lucky to work in two fantastic teams, with colleagues who are so knowledgeable. Through them, and mentoring, I’ve been set up with a great network, and I try to surround myself with people who have diverse insights and perspectives that I can learn from. Over the last couple of years I’ve worked on networking outside of the immediate Company Secretariat group too — having varied networks of other professions we work with often provides so many opportunities to learn and understand businesses more holistically. One of the things I’ve missed most over the pandemic has been the opportunity to spend the day with other Company Secretaries though — I’m excited to get back to the City for that!
How do you work at improving your professional development?
I have longer term goals set for the next 3–7 year period, and I revisit them every couple of months to assess my progress and whether they need adapting to better suit my current needs.
In the day-to-day I have some time every week carved out for reading updates that have come in — analysing and critically thinking around the subjects and their application to my role and the wider company. If it’s a quieter week then I’ll use that time to do some LinkedIn Learning courses on areas I’m focusing on, review feedback, or listen to a podcast — I’m currently hooked on the HBR Women at Work podcast. I also rely on mentors sharing their experiences and thoughts too, and I actively seek out mentors from all professions who can provide insight into areas of my career that need developing.
What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made?
I don’t think I have a single best decision yet! I’m lucky to be where I am through a number of smaller decisions (even if they felt large at the time), and I’m always pleased that I decided to become a Company Secretary and that it’s a role that I’m enthusiastic about.
What advice can you offer to students or others considering your career path?
For those considering becoming a Company Secretary, I would advise reading through the ICSA website, the Qualifying Programme module syllabi, and speaking to any Company Secretaries you know. If you don’t know any, there are Insight Days, and it’s worth attending webinars (or looking at the recordings of webinars on the ICSA website) on getting into the profession — the panellists will usually be happy to speak to you about your ambitions and offer advice based on their experience.
Ask a lot of questions, and don’t stop asking questions when you get your first role!
Phoebe Stamford-Moroz, Company Secretariat, Tate & Lyle