Formed in 1949 as a branch of the ICSA, membership remained relatively modest until the early 1970s when, in order to accommodate the demand to provide further education to Hong Kong's growing population, bodies such as the Hong Kong Polytechnic began to deliver certificate and diploma courses in business-related subjects. Many students studying these courses found it natural to join and study for the examinations of a relevant professional body at the same time and as a consequence the ICSA saw strong growth in student numbers. This growth has of course been translated into membership. Over the past 20 years we have grown from 300 members to over 5,800 members and 3,200 students.
The Institute publishes a monthly journal 'CSj' for members and students. Please contact the Institute office on 2881 6177 for subscription details.
The origins of the ICSA go back to 1891, when it was formed by 18 company secretaries as 'The Institute of Secretaries of Joint Stock Companies'. Members' skills were concentrated on providing competent advice to directors of listed companies and on removing from their shoulders the burden of compliance with regulatory requirements.
The work of the company secretary is today found in companies large and small, public and private, listed and unlisted. In addition, the strong analytical and administrative skills which are core to the company secretary's training provide members of the Institute with plenty of opportunities to work in non-corporate areas, for example professional firms, government and quasi-government entities.
When working in a corporate environment, the company secretary is expected to combine technical knowledge of relevant corporate regulation (Companies Ordinance, Listing Rules, Takeover Code, Securities Ordinance, Insider Dealing Ordinance, etc) with high-level interpersonal skills. Whereas the company secretary needs to be able to explain quickly and clearly to his board all manner of regulatory requirements, it must be remembered that he is after all not a member of the company's management and it is therefore only through the careful employment of necessary counsel and diplomacy that he is able to persuade company managers to follow his advice and guidance. The company secretary will in most companies also assume a wide range of administrative duties, depending on the nature of the company's business.
When working in a professional firm, the company secretary will deal with third party, fee-paying clients, and is required to deliver technical knowledge and advice to enable the establishment, efficient administration and dismantling of appropriate business structures, often co-ordinating this work with relevant accounting, legal, taxation advice rendered by colleague professionals. Again, a high level of interpersonal skill is required in delivering this advice.
Entry to membership of HKICS is targeted towards degree holders, and equivalent professional qualifications, and requires a combination of examination and relevant administrative or technical experience; the membership standard meets the criteria set by the ICSA's International Professional Standards Committee, so that membership of HKICS automatically enables the award of membership of the ICSA in addition. From 1995 onwards, students are being required to sit for Hong Kong variants in their examinations. A wide range of local courses provided by tertiary institutions are recognised for exemption from various subjects of the HKICS examinations.
The HKICS has full responsibility for ensuring that its examinations meet international standards and Hong Kong variant papers are now set in key examination subjects, such as taxation, company law, company secretarial practice. In addition, the range of experience recognised as relevant to membership application has been tailored to meet the Hong Kong environment.
The focus of the HKICS has in recent years concentrated very much on the role of the company secretary in the listed company environment. Significant opportunities have been made available as a result of the increase in listed company regulation and the growth of new listings. This has presented a very natural springboard for presentation of the profession to authorities in China, where the development of market reforms and establishment of excellent relationships at State Council level have seen an immediate grasp of the importance of the Institute's training.