Hanan has worked her way up to become an essential company secretary for the chairman of du, the UAE’s second telco company. One of her many achievements has been to enable the company to be placed first in the renowned Standard & Poor’s 2012 Hawkamah Pan Arab ESG Index. So what makes Hanan’s day job tick?
What is the most challenging part of your role as board secretary?
It can be challenging to serve more than one boss, to be a leader while being a follower and have a voice yet unable to speak in certain circumstances. There can also be a lack of understanding of the duties and responsibilities of the company secretaries. The job can be very stressful at times since the role requires excellence and perfection. It is a highly demanding role and requires exacting standards at all times. It can also be challenging to maintain continuous professional development with the demands of the workload.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy being privy to a helicopter view and the wide scope of work as it expands all across the organisation. It’s also great to meet with and learn from extraordinary people, such as the board members and top executive management. I am on a constant learning curve with the amount of information I receive and being the main person that handles key information. As the saying goes, with knowledge comes power.
What skills and aptitudes are required for the board secretary role?
– Diplomacy, practical knowledge and a lot of common sense.
– An eye for detail combined with an ability to read between the lines.
– Discretion with confidential information.
What are the biggest risks you have to manage – and what advice would you give for mitigating them?
One of the biggest risks is non-compliance with the code, constant review of the rules/updating/attending seminars and building a solid relationship with the regulator. With the dynamic nature of our world and work environment, it is important to constantly learn and relearn.
What advice do you have for aspiring board secretaries?
Information is key- you have to be on top of everything. It is also important to be familiar with expectations of shareholders, the chairman, the board and continuously evolving governance standards.
Are there other ways you add value to the company in addition to your administrative responsibilities?
I ensure the integrity of the governance framework. We are known to be the board’s advisors, given our extended involvement and extensive custodianship of company information.
I add value to not only administrative work, but also in governance, investors relations, dividends distributions, shareholders queries, production of governance and annual reports. I view myself as the governance professional whose role also expands to ensuring that good practices are in place such as annual board evaluations, company transparency and ensuring that proper controls are in place to protect the interests of the company and its shareholders.
Can you describe your day-to-day role?
My day starts with a quick screen of the new corporate government developments globally. I then put together my agenda for the day with the tasks based on priorities. I usually begin by attending to my mails since I am the focal point between my board and management/company stakeholders.
I have a reporting team so delegating tasks is a must, however, with the criticalness of my role, it is important that I am involved in every task as I wouldn’t want to be in a position where I get questioned by the board and was not able to respond to the particular query. This type of response would never be acceptable from a company secretary as my main role is to be the bridge for information, communication and advice between the different stakeholders, either internally or externally.
More about Hanan Ahmad:
Hanan is an Emirati national with extensive professional experience across a number of sectors. She began her career at Dubai Group in 2006 as assistant manager and remained in the organisation for the next four years. In 2010, Hanan moved to du to take the role of corporate governance and board relations manager and by April 2012, Hanan was appointed du Company Secretary by the Board of Directors.
She holds a BA in Business Administration from the UK and is a certified professional Director by Mudara IOD.