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Maintaining An Effective Board

Board Composition

The Board comprises the Chair, Non-Executive Directors and Executive Directors and their biographies can be found here.

There is a clear separation of the roles of Non-Executive Chair and Chief Executive Officer. The Chair, Caroline Brown, is responsible for the running of the Board and for ensuring that all Directors are fully informed of matters, sufficient to make informed judgements.  As Chief Executive Officer, Russell Atkinson has responsibility for implementing the strategy agreed by the Board and managing the day-to-day operations of the Group.  He is supported in this role by the Chief Financial Officer (James Saralis) and other senior leaders in the Group.

As Company Secretary, James Saralis, who is also an Executive Director, supports the Board with compliance and governance matters.  The Board believes this is appropriate given the size and complexity of the Group and he reports directly to the Chairman on governance matters and where any potential conflicts between the two roles arise.

The Board has determined that the Non-Executive Directors are independent, experienced and influential individuals with complementary skill sets. Tim Aspinall is the Senior Independent Non-Executive Director. Members of the Board maintain memberships of a number of professional bodies and ensure their skill sets are constantly developed. 

As part of our ongoing commitment to staff development, Executive Directors and senior leaders have personal development programmes which include mentoring and attendance at high level leadership programmes. In addition, they receive individual support for specific and identified development needs to ensure they are kept up to date on relevant legal developments or changes in best practice.

The Nominations Committee is responsible for considering the makeup of the Board and identifies any succession planning requirements.

No individual or group dominates the Board’s decision-making processes.

The Role of the Board

The Board sets the strategic aims of the Group and its values; provides the leadership required to put them into effect; supervises and constructively challenges management, who are responsible for the day-to-day running of the Group; and reports to shareholders on their stewardship. The Board is also responsible for risk management, and we have set out our approach to this in the Principal Risks and Uncertainties section of the Annual Report on page 47. 

The Board met 10 times during 2019 and the meetings last for approximately half a day. In addition to this, all Directors attend an annual strategy planning day, which was held on 30 September 2019, and the Group’s Annual General Meeting, which is usually held in May. Additional meetings or conference calls are convened as required. Members of the Board also chair and sit on the Board committees and these each have their own time commitments. The following table shows the Directors’ attendance at Board and Committee meetings during the year:

Board Audit Remuneration Nomination 
Caroline Brown 9/9 1/1 3/3 1/1
Steve Halbert1 1/1 NA NA NA
Russell Atkinsons 9/9 NA NA NA
James Saralis 9/9 NA NA NA
Gillian Kent 9/9 2/3 3/3 1/1
Tim Aspinal 8/9 3/3 3/3 1/1
Sally Tilleray2 4/4 2/2 1/1 NA

1 Steve Halbert resigned from the Board on 30 January 2019
2 Sally Tilleray was appointed to the Board on 19 July 2019

The Group's Annual General Meeting is held in May and all Board members attend in addition to senior leaders from across the business.

Board Effectiveness

The Chair annually reviews the contributions of Board members, with a focus on ensuring effectiveness and relevance. The Board periodically reviews its effectiveness and performance as a unit to ensure that it is operating collectively in an efficient, informed, productive and open manner. 

The Board undertook an evaluation of its effectiveness in 2019 which was supervised by the Nomination Committee with the assistance of the Company Secretary. It was decided that the approach taken would be to issue a questionnaire, followed by a discussion with the full Board. 

The questionnaire consisted of 118 questions split into 15 sections, including Board composition and governance, Board operations, strategy, stakeholder relations and the performance of individual Directors and Board Committees.

Following completion of the questionnaire, the results were evaluated, and the following key areas of focus and subsequent actions were agreed by the Board:

  1. Developing the next stage of the Group’s strategy The Board held a strategy day in September 2019 and it was agreed that the Board should review its current strategy in 2020, in light of regulatory developments in the personal injury market, the state of the UK residential property market and the levels of competition in all of the Group’s key markets. This process will be led by the CEO. 
  2. Scope of the Audit Committee and the recruitment of an independent Chair of the Audit Committee The Audit Committee developed and managed an enhanced risk framework for the Group which can be seen on page 47 of the annual report. This process was developed by the CFO. As a result, a new independent Non-Executive Director was appointed to chair the Committee, which has been renamed the Audit & Risk Committee. The Report of the Audit & Risk Committee for the year can be found on page 80 of the annual report. 
  3. Whether the Board should appoint a Senior Independent Director (SID) The Nomination Committee recommended that the Board appoint a SID, whose role will be to support the Chair in her role; to act as an intermediary for other non-executive directors when necessary; to lead the non-executive Directors in the oversight of the Chair; and to ensure there is a clear division of responsibility between the Chair and Chief Executive. Following a process run by the Nomination Committee, the Board appointed Tim Aspinall to the role of SID on 30 January 2020.

Internal Control

The Group has implemented policies on internal control and corporate governance. These have been prepared in order to ensure that: 

  • proper business records are maintained and reported on, which might reasonably affect the conduct of the business
  • monitoring procedures for the performance of the Group are presented to the Board at regular intervals
  • budget proposals are submitted to the Board no later than one month before the start of each financial year
  • accounting policies and practices suitable for the Group’s activities are followed in preparing the financial statements
  • the Group is provided with general accounting, administrative and secretarial services as may reasonably be required; and 
  • interim and annual accounts are prepared and submitted in time to enable the Group to meet statutory filing deadlines

The Group continues to review its system of internal control to ensure compliance with best practice, whilst also having regard to its size and the resources available. The Board considers that the introduction of an internal audit function is not appropriate at this juncture, although the Group finance team has implemented a series of internal control reviews and reports the outcomes of these to the Audit & Risk Committee.

Board Committees

To assist in carrying out its duties the Board has set up a number of committees, including the Audit & Risk Committee, the Remuneration Committee and the Nomination Committee. Each committee has formally delegated duties and responsibilities with written terms of reference. From time to time separate committees may be set up by the Board to consider specific issues when the need arises. An explanation of the responsibilities and composition of the committees is set out below and the terms of reference can be downloaded from our website.

Audit & Risk Committee

The Audit & Risk Committee consists of:

  • Sally Tilleray (Chair)
  • Gillian Kent
  • Tim Aspinall

Caroline Brown chaired the committee during 2019 until Sally Tilleray’s appointment on 19 July 2019. 

The Audit & Risk Committee is expected to meet formally at least three times a year and otherwise as required. It has responsibility for ensuring that the financial performance of the Group is properly reported on and reviewed, and its role includes monitoring the integrity of the financial statements of the Group (including annual and interim accounts and results announcements), reviewing internal control and risk management systems, reviewing any changes to accounting policies, reviewing and monitoring the extent of the non-audit services undertaken by external auditors and advising on the appointment of external auditors. 

Remuneration Committee

The Remuneration Committee consists of:

  • Gillian Kent (Chair)
  • Caroline Brown
  • Tim Aspinall
  • Sally Tilleray

The Remuneration Committee is expected to meet not less than twice a year and at such other times as required. The Remuneration Committee has responsibility for determining, within the agreed terms of reference, the Group’s policy on the remuneration packages of the Company’s Chair, the Executive and Non-Executive Directors, the Company Secretary and other senior executives.

The Remuneration Committee also has responsibility for:

  • determining the total individual remuneration package of the Chair and each Executive Director (including bonuses, incentive payments and share options or other share awards); and
  • determining the total individual remuneration package of the Company Secretary and all other senior executives (including bonuses, incentive payments and share options or other share awards), in each case within the terms of the Group’s policy and in consultation with the Chair of the Board and/or the Chief Executive Officer.

No director or manager may be involved in any discussions as to their own remuneration.

Nomination Committee

The Nomination Committee consists of:

  • Caroline Brown (Chair)
  • Gillian Kent
  • Tim Aspinall
  • Sally Tilleray

The Nomination Committee is expected to meet not less than once a year and at such other times as required. It has responsibility for reviewing the structure, size and composition (including the skills, knowledge and experience) of the Board, and giving full consideration to succession planning. It also has responsibility for recommending new appointments to the Board.

Accountability and Stakeholders

The Board considers that the 2019 Annual Report and Accounts, taken as a whole, is fair, balanced and understandable and provides the information necessary for shareholders to assess the Company’s position and performance, business model and strategy. Details of how we do this are also explained in the Audit & Risk Committee report.