Following the Libor scandal, which has cost Barclays' Bob Diamond his job, and the Royal Bank of Scotland's computing debacle, which has caused embarrassment and serious brand damage in the past week, it's no surprise that reputational risk will be one of the major issues debated at the upcoming Co Sec Forum 2012.
Commenting ahead of the forum, David Prosser, former business editor of The Independent, and editor of the Company Secretary's Handbook 2012/2013, said RBS’s computing crisis in particular is what every company secretary dreads – where one relatively small mistake "snowballs out of control, leaving you with angry customers and at risk of serious reputational damage".
"From a corporate governance perspective, RBS’s response to the crisis has been interesting to watch.
"The bank was quick to get its chief executive in front of the media, where his objectives were twofold: to reassure customers that RBS was getting to grips with the crisis and to make it clear he and his colleagues were very sorry for what had happened," he wrote in his recent blog.
According to Prosser, the success of that strategy will ultimately depend on the speed of the resolution and whether the bank proves it really is sorry by "offering customers sufficient compensation".
Prosser and other industry leaders will gather at Co Sec Forum 2012 at Hanbury Manor in Hertfordshire (18 - 19 October) to discuss such topical issues and how company secretaries can protect their organisations from reputational risk.
But that's not all that's on the agenda. Other themes and workshops at the forum include:
- Annual and interim reporting – does more frequent reporting engender a short-termist attitude?
- Board effectiveness – the demand from shareholders is clear, greater transparency and more accountability is essential.
- Career professional development – it's not just about points, but staying at the top of your game – and on top of changing regulations and requirements.
- Corporate social responsibility – demanding higher standards is not an option, it's an expectation for all company secretaries – including truly addressing green issues.
- Dematerialisation – not a Star Trek fiction, but a boardroom fact as technology replaces physical reports.
- Women on the board – are quotas needed? And what are the benefits of diversity on the board?
- Executive pay – responding to shareholder concerns – just how much is a FTSE 100 CEO worth, and what influence do you have in the matter?
- Governance – overcoming the crisis of confidence in capitalism and all things corporate.
- Boardroom technology and software – stay up to date and effective by taking advantage of the latest services, and the platforms that deliver them.
- Legal and Bribery Act – how does it impact on you, your board, and your company practices at home AND abroad?
- Employee benefits – ahareholdings, pension and bonus schemes and other incentives to retain staff and their loyalty.
- FATCA – are you affected? And if so, are you compliant and aware of your obligations?
- Recruitment/changing roles – attracting and retaining the best has always been a problem, but knowing what sort of person you want and why gives you the best chance of securing them.
- Subsidiary governance – do you have a consistent approach to governance internationally? And if not, why not?
- Offshore trustees - is your structure evading tax, aggressively avoiding tax, or somewhere in the grey borderlands?