Companies House chief Louise Smyth reflects on her first year with the weighty title of The Registrar and asking Tom Jones to lead a Christmas singalong
With the end of 2018 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2019 – and tell us who they’d choose to turn on their town’s Christmas lights. The links on this list will go live as the articles are published in the run up to 2019.
What was your highlight of 2018?
2018 was my first full year as chief executive of Companies House. A significant highlight for me was the warm welcome I received from all my colleagues and their enthusiasm and commitment to making Companies House the very best that it can be. Building on this theme, achieving gold standards in both the Investors in People assessment and the Mind wellbeing index, and being shortlisted for the Civil Service Awards were really important to me, as I believe passionately that my role as a leader is to create the right environment for everyone to thrive or flourish.
I am always particularly pleased when we can make a difference to people’s lives. This year we introduced changes to the law to help people who were at risk because their home address was available on the public register. This was especially important to me after seeing some of the cases involved.
What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2018?
Becoming “The Registrar”. It’s a pretty weighty title and with it comes a whole heap of things that you are responsible for, so it was a pretty steep learning curve for me. There are volumes devoted to the registrar’s powers, which I was given as a little light bedtime reading. Added to that, getting used to a new organisation – so many names to remember, new contacts to make, relationships to build.
I have largely recruited a new senior team in my first year and while recruitment itself isn’t difficult, getting it right is probably the most important thing you can do. Building a strong team who bring diversity of thought and approach, but a strong sense of shared values really makes a difference. So far so good!
What are the main challenges facing your organisation in the coming year?
We are embarking on a transformation of Companies House. This will affect every aspect of what we do. There will be a strong digital element to our programme, and creating new services that are good enough to make our customers engage with us digitally (rather than the paper many of them love) will be a challenge. However, I think it likely that culture change and adopting new ways of working will be more challenging. We will need to build on the positive levels of engagement within the organisation to fully exploit the challenges and opportunities we have ahead.
There is also more that we can do to capitalise on the value of the register to the UK economy and we are exploring opportunities.
Which celebrity or historical figure would you choose to turn on the Christmas lights in your town, and why?
Although originally from England, I have adopted Wales as my home. So, in true Welsh tradition, I would choose someone who can lead a good old-fashioned singsong that will raise people spirits. There’s nobody better suited to that task than Tom Jones.
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