‘People Stories’ is a feature with an inspirational and successful business and industry influencers.It is our pleasure to introduce…
Ibi Eso has more than twenty years of legal and business experience, having qualified as a lawyer and then as a Company Secretary. Combining her skills and experience with a passion for good governance, she established Bridgehouse Company Secretaries in London in 2006. Bridgehouse is now a thriving up-and-coming company that offers fully bespoke and flexible company secretarial services to clients in both the private and not-for-profit sectors.
Founders and Director, Bridgehouse Company Secretaries
View Ibi’s profile on LinkedIn
The secret to success?
Q: You’ve built up a very successful career as a Lawyer, Company Secretary, Entrepreneur and Company Director at Bridgehouse Company Secretaries (BHC Secretaries) with substantial experience in various company secretarial and governance matters for the private and not-for-profit sectors. In your years of experience what attributes or skills do you believe are needed to be successful in your sector?
A: Good communication! You need to be able to speak to people at all ranks and levels within an organisation. One minute you could be talking to someone about making photocopies, the next minute you are in the Boardroom advising the Chairman on the organisation’s corporate governance framework.
Favourite governance story?
Q: Favourite governance story – Good or Bad?
A: We see good and bad governance in action every day! Our good governance stories always begin the same though, with a firm engagement from the Board for us to carry out an initial health check of their organisation’s current governance framework. Together with the CEO we then identify and prioritise what actions are needed to strengthen its current state. Good governance comes from making changes and often significant changes are required. We help give effect to change and make positive differences internally, coming out the other end with a stronger, better, properly governed company. We are not just consultants. When we work with an organisation we get very involved and make highly effective policy and process improvements wherever deemed necessary. It is always our end goal to see the company working better and more efficiently.
Passionate about good governance
Q: You are passionate about supporting businesses and carving out an industry standard for good governance within the UK. What are the main governance challenges facing companies and not-for-profit organisations today?
A: There is a general lack of awareness around what good governance really looks like. Governance is not just a box-ticking exercise or an additional cost. People often don’t understand the value of good governance. Good governance turns a company into a well-oiled machine. Benefits of good governance lead to clarity around strategy and risks, engagement with stakeholders and shareholders, integrity and confidence in how a company is administered and transparency in how the organisation works together.
The role of Technology
Q: How important a role will technology play in corporate governance going forward and where do you see the future in terms of people vs technology?
A: I am a passionate believer in technology! It makes things more efficient and effective. I embrace it, work with it and feel it gives us more control which in turn helps us to work better.
For example, equity administration software can restrict the sale of shares during a close period. This is a simple but very effective way of automating work that would otherwise be very manual. The emergence of Board portals for Directors to access Board reports on an iPad and company secretaries to distribute board reports securely is also another example of technology making governance more effective. Other software features such as online voting and electronic form filing are also extremely useful.
We have a duty to engage with technology. If we are efficient we have no reason to be scared or threatened by it. We should welcome technology into the working world.
Q: 90% of companies need help with their governance. Some companies take quite a long time to realise this. What advice would you give to Company Secretaries regarding getting help with their governance?
A: I would advise all Company Secretaries to take a holistic view of their companies’ governance framework. By viewing the complete picture, it is easier to identify gaps and focus on priorities. They need to think about behavioural risk and the culture of the organisation in order to understand and identify all the areas that could be improved. Often they will need to get professional assistance and advice to achieve their governance improvement goals. That’s where we come in.
Q: Your Company BHC Secretaries has been praised for the delivery of first-class services to your clients, for a great deal of attention you pay them and the positive difference you make to their organisations. What do you think makes your services stand apart from others in a similar line of business?
A: We strongly believe in the power of the personal approach. We get really close to our clients and become part of their organisation. We work with them, meet them, know them very well and have great engagement as a result. Our flexible working approach is also something clients tell us is unique. Our flexibility as a company ensures clients stay firmly in control of their own costs and the amount of support they need.
Q: Your services range from the filing of annual returns, maintaining statutory registers, minute taking at board meetings through to a complete revision of company Articles, drafting shareholder agreements, advice on corporate law agreements, director training and governance reviews. Which part of this work do you enjoy most and why?
A: Governance reviews! We have created a good governance model called GAPP (Governance Assurance Process and Practice). I love to present this to clients – they often tell us how easily it brings governance to life for them. Our GAPP model is used as the basis on which to assess their business against and identify any areas where improvements are needed.
Q: What motivates you?
A: Inner drive!
Q: – Outside of work what is your favourite hobby?
A: Most recently my hobby is watching Box Sets!
Keeping up to date
Q: – It is extremely difficult to learn all the legal and technical aspects, best practices and keep up with the latest developments impacting Corporate Governance. How can one stay up to date?
A: There are so many ways – Courses, reading, subscribe to law firms’ updates, attend training events, newsletters, go online…
Q: – Favourite industry conference, event or organisation?
A: QCA – Quoted Companies Alliance – an organisation that champions the interests of small to mid-size quoted companies and promotes good governance. They are a great resource!
Q: – Do many of your clients offer Equity Compensation to their employees? How do you see Equity Compensation developing as an industry over the next 5 – 10 years? What should be done to facilitate greater awareness/participation in employee equity?
A: Yes, quite a few of our clients operate employee share schemes of one type or another. I can definitely see the value in getting employees involved in ownership. In the UK everyone looks up to John Lewis as a company because of their employee-ownership model, giving responsibility and ownership to their staff. They are at the top end of the scale, something to aspire to. Companies have to take baby steps to get started.
Q: – What advice would you give someone starting out in the Corporate Governance World today?
A: Try to get as much experience in as many different sector types as possible. Different sectors including accountancy firms, the private sector, not-for-profit etc.
Q: – How will you and your family be spending the holidays this year? Any favourite tradition you can share with us?
A: I’m not a very Christmassy person! We try to get away every year at Christmas time if it’s affordable – go somewhere sunny – long or short-haul – and then come back after New Year when things are back to normal.