As our business, teams and stakeholders have quickly adapted to new ways of working, we wanted to discover the creative ways that we have continued to drive forward our business in a lockdown.
We have spoken to our own experts to find out how their day-to-day duties have been impacted by social distancing measures. Over the coming weeks, they will be sharing the biggest challenges they are facing and the measures they are taking to keep delivering in lockdown – from leasing industrial and logistics units to virtual-selling new homes.
Our first comes from Arfa Ruhee, Assistant Company Secretary, who is balancing strict compliance requirements with the inability to host face-to-face meetings.
“My name is Arfa Ruhee, I am an Assistant Company Secretary at St. Modwen and am based at Park Point in Birmingham which is St. Modwen’s HQ. My role largely revolves around the main corporate events in the year i.e. preparing the Annual Report and arranging the AGM, supporting the Board and its Committees, managing share schemes and ensuring that the company is compliant with various legal and regulatory requirements.”
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a result of the lockdown and social distancing measures?
“As a listed company, St. Modwen is required to follow certain rules and a particular reporting cycle.
“As you can imagine this leads to the CoSec team following a well-established timetable to ensure we remain compliant and do not miss any deadlines. The lockdown has led to us having to rethink how we approach one of our main events in the corporate calendar – the AGM.
“St. Modwen’s year end is a month earlier than most listed companies and so we had already issued our notice of meeting and were prepped and ready to hold the meeting in March. But, due to the introduction of social distancing measures and restrictions on travel, the directors and shareholders would be unable to attend and so we had to make plans to adjourn the meeting and make arrangements to reconvene.
“This may seem straightforward on paper but behind the scenes there was a herculean effort to ensure that we complied with both Company Law requirements and Government measures. This involved holding a small meeting of two people (I was one of them as I am a shareholder – I bought shares especially) in the reception of the building we had originally planned to hold the meeting so that a resolution could be passed to adjourn the meeting. We then had to make alternative plans whilst waiting for guidance from the Government and hoping that whatever arrangements we put in place would work within the parameters the Government set out. We then mailed a new notice of meeting to all shareholders and made an announcement of the new date, time and location.
“The reconvened meeting is a closed meeting and once again there will only be two shareholders present so that the meeting is valid in order to pass the resolutions set out in the notice. We have asked shareholders to send any questions ahead of the meeting and these will be answered separately via the website.”
What changes, adaptations or new measures have been required in order for you to keep delivering effectively under lockdown?
“My role is conducive to working remotely – have a laptop and internet and I am good to go.
“However, it’s been the mental and physical aspects of working from home every day which I have struggled with and in order to adapt and work effectively I have instigated certain habits in my daily routine to ensure that I remain productive. Such as taking regular breaks, not watching the news too often throughout the day, getting back in touch with family and friends that I may not have spoken to in a while, cooking proper meals and doing what I can to keep relaxed.”
How have your stakeholders adapted and how are you maintaining relationships during this time?
“We keep in regular email communication with our external stakeholders and have calls as and when necessary. This is business as normal for the CoSec team. Whilst we do have face-to-face meetings it tends to be at key moments throughout the year.
The more challenging aspect of the lockdown is having to maintain our working relationships with wider teams across the business. We don’t know how they are doing on a day-to-day basis and communications are normally by email, so we don’t always get a sense of what is going on behind the scenes.”
How has your team had to adapt to remote working?
“The CoSec team is pretty used to working from home and can largely work independently of each other. We share what we are all doing so that we can continue to prioritise key matters and projects. However, for certain pieces of work or projects we do require input and support from other members of the team. To facilitate collaboration, we have had to become much more au fait with utilising conference facilities like Microsoft Teams. We have also diarised regular MS Teams calls/meetings to have a general catch up and to see each other.
“In addition, many of the systems that we use are cloud based so the transition to using these every day from home has not been difficult.
“The main limitation is not having the use of certain hardware like printers and scanners. I do a lot of reading and I guess I am still somewhat old school in that I much prefer reading hardcopy than on a screen.
“Also, we tend to receive post pretty regularly and there were concerns early on that we may miss an important document during the lockdown. There are now arrangements in place to ensure that we receive scans of any letters that come through.”