‘Covid has meant we’ve had to adapt our reforms, but we’re still driving change’: Companies House's Louise Smyth on the impact of 2020

2020 was a year unlike any other, with the coronavirus pandemic upending the work of government and changing how we live our daily lives. Senior figures from across the civil service tell us how the unprecedented 12 months affected them, and look ahead to 2021
Louise Smyth Companies House chief executive

By Civil Service World

18 Dec 2020


What are you proudest of your department or agency achieving in 2020?

I am most proud of the difference Companies House has made to support the economy by helping directors focus on running their businesses in such challenging circumstances. We implemented automatic filing extensions and alternative filing methods and customers have told us what a difference it has made to them. The team at Companies House has done all of this with great pride and empathy while dealing with huge changes in their own lives. This is the Companies House spirit, and it played a fundamental part in achieving the Platinum Investors in People Award this year, which I am also hugely proud of too.

What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2020?

This has been a hard year for everyone and has certainly been challenging from a leadership perspective, but it has also presented a real opportunity to step up and display real leadership – which I and my team have undoubtedly done our best to do. Keeping people safe at the same time as keeping our services going has been my priority. Visibility of leadership has been more important than ever at a time when people have been anxious, often trying to work in challenging circumstances and working remotely.  Clarity and consistency of messaging, understanding and kindness have all been really important and have helped to keep people engaged, motivated and connected to Companies House.

What are the main challenges facing your organisation in the coming year?

We are in the midst of a transformation programme that will support the most significant reform to the register since 1860. The biggest challenge is keeping up the momentum in an ever-changing context. Our new strategy sets out our ambitions to drive confidence in the UK economy over the next 5 years. Covid has meant we have had to adapt our plans, but we have been able to implement changes in a way that are still in line with our strategic ambitions. For example, we have accelerated our plans for a distributed workforce and have increased digital engagement with users ahead of expectations. 

People will have to be more creative about celebrating this year. How will you make the festive period on Zoom special?

Who would have thought last year that Zoom would be a must for celebrating Christmas but I’m a very social person so I am grateful for the technology to stay in touch with my friends and family. I have discovered a clementine gin in a festive bottle that lights up which I will enjoy not sharing with everyone. I might even wear a Christmas hat.


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