In 1981 the UK ICSA Council of the Institute established a new standing committee called the International Affairs Committee (IAC) and the Association was represented on the IAC by its Chairman, Dato’ Junus Sudin. The IAC had strongly held out to all its Association and Divisions that representation in this standing committee was both an honour and a vital recognition of the key role and influence on policy making that participation in the committee entailed given the international stature of the Institute.
The IAC held its first meeting on 7 May 1982 in Sydney, Australia. The meeting saw the attendance of representatives from UK, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa. The Institute’s Five-Year Plan, commencing on 1 August 1982 outlined its vision and worldwide perspective in terms of membership numbers, services, recognition of qualifications, student development and examinations. Input and feedback from Malaysia was deemed vital in this endeavour given the key inroads the Association had made in contributing to "Malaysia Incorporated'. It was also the year that the UK ICSA Council accepted in principle the need to restructure to provide greater overseas representation reflecting the global ambit of the Institute’s recognition and activities.
In the same year, the Association appointed its first Executive Secretary, Mr Ho Cheng Hong, to manage the affairs of the Secretariat and to handle and streamline the significant increase in the number of activities organised by the Association. In 1985, the Secretariat moved yet again from its premises in Campbell Complex to a new office in Brickfields with sufficient space to also accommodate a library. A successful appeal was made to members to donate textbooks, manuals, magazines and other literature to get the library project off the ground. The response was heartening. By then, the management of the Secretariat needed the services of two full-time support staff.
The position of the Executive Secretary was redesignated as Executive Administrator. The level of activities had not only increased but the complexity and co-ordination required to serve both its practioners and student membership had taken on greater importance given the move towards devolution.
This exercise also marked the beginning of the Association’s first phase of devolution. The road leading to devolved status began when the IAC decided at its October 1986 meeting to form a Devolution Working Party with the following reference:
"To guide, assist and co-ordinate the Association in progressing the orderly implementation of devolution in accordance with the schedule which was contained in the report of the ICSA Under Secretary’s visit to South-East Asian Associations in April/May 1986."
The Association’s representatives on the Devolution Working Party of the Institute were two Management Committee members, Edward Chan and Khadijah Abdullah. The Singapore and Hong Kong Associations were also represented on this Devolution Working Party as similar concerns and needs prevailed in all three centres.
As the devolution exercise progressed, the Association, headed by its first lady chairman, Khadijah Abdullah continued with its unrelenting efforts to maintain the high standards of professionalism required of Chartered Secretaries in public practice. In hindsight, the strategy was a master stroke - status without effectiveness and professionalism would amount to little in the world of corporate affairs.
In November of the same year, the Practising Certificate Scheme was implemented. The scheme is in accordance with the ICSA Council regulations pursuant to Institute's Bye-law 11 (I) of the Institute, which requires members in practice to obtain a Professional Indemnity Insurance before they could obtain a Practising Certificate. With the Practicing Certificate, Chartered Secretaries were permitted to offer their professional services to the public with the assurance that quality and professional services rendered by Chartered Secretaries were of the highest order. With the implementation of the Practising Certificate Scheme, members were able to instill greater confidence in clients that their corporate secretarial affairs were henceforth managed in a truly competent manner, meeting the high standards and expectations of Corporate Malaysia.
In 1987, Mr Wang Heng Keen assumed the leadership of the Secretariat with the designation of Executive Administrator. From then on the pace of development showed a marked acceleration. The following year saw the start of the second phase of the devolution exercise whereby the Association was entrusted with responsibility for all administrative functions related to registration of members and students, examination entries, renewals and other administrative matters in Malaysia. Autonomy was near at hand, at last.
Meanwhile the Secretariat moved office in early 1987 to Menara Aik Hua in Jalan Hicks in Kuala Lumpur's Golden Triangle. The new premises boasted of a library with shelf space for more than 5,000 books and three training rooms which had a combined seating capacity of more than 150 persons. The office was officially declared open by Dato’ Kok Wee Kiat, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry in April 1987. Amongst the guests was the strongly felt presence of three members of ICSA Council led by the President, Ben Power, reflecting the confidence of the Institute in the Association’s ability to grow from strength to strength with each passing year.
Though occupied with weighty matters related to the devolution process, the Association held its first Certificate Presentation Ceremony in December 1987. It was a memorable and a proud occasion for the 32 graduates of the June 1987 examination who received their certificates from Past Chairman, Tan Sri Dato’ Azman Hashim, who was accorded the guest of honour privilege given his contributions to the Association.
MAICSA's history thus far had been one of challenge and response. In 1988, the Association under the chairmanship of Edward Chan organised its first international conference in Kuala Lumpur from 12 to 13 September. The 1988 ICSA International Conference was very aptly given the theme, Change & Challenge – Preparing the Corporate Administrator. This was the first time the Association had ventured into organising an international event of such stature. The conference saw the participation of speakers from UK, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia which further reinforced links and commonality of vision.
The third phase of the Devolution exercise saw clearly the need for administrative and management efficiency and this resulted in the computerisation of the Secretariat. A Data General Computer was installed at the Secretariat in early 1989 with the objective of ensuring more comprehensive data management and streamlining processes to better serve the membership of the Association.
In the midst of these changes, the Association continued to with efforts to incorporate a higher degree of local content in several papers of the ICSA examination. A breakthrough came about in June 1989 when the Institute agreed to introduce three ‘localised’ examination papers: Malaysian Company Secretarial Practice, Malaysian Corporate Law and Malaysian Taxation as syllabus options together with UK based subjects in the ICSA New Examination Scheme — a strategic development that would ensure the relevance of the syllabus and the examination to company secretaries serving in Malaysia. Autonomy in practice was deemed just as important as administrative autonomy.
The Association became fully devolved from ICSA UK on 1st August 1990. This final phase of the devolution process was marked by MAICSA's assumption of full responsibility for the administration of its members and students. The devolution process on the whole was carried out with astute leadership skills and vision, both on the part of the Association and the Institute. From henceforth, the Association enjoys considerable autonomy in terms of student admission and membership activities for the promotion of the profession of corporate secretaryship in Malaysia. The status and pride shared by members of the Association is a reflection of the role the profession continues to play in the affairs of Corporate Malaysia together with the international dimensions of its affiliations in the search for best practices that would ensure global recognition for the profession.