Below are some examples of the ways in which the Board has engaged directly with stakeholders during the financial year, how stakeholder interests have been considered in the Board’s decision-making and wider role, and how the Directors have had regard to the matters set out in section 172(1)(a)-(f) when discharging their duties under section 172. The Company has a sole member, Close Brothers Limited, and as such the duty of directors to have regard to the need to act fairly as between members of the Company is limited.
Investment in technology
The decision to invest significantly in technology in the year was driven by our desire to improve security for our customers, suppliers and intermediary parties, and enhance our integration capabilities with third parties. Multi factor authentication has been added to the loan management system portal for solicitors, as an added security measure. Other improvements made to the system have improved usability for employees, allowing them to work more efficiently and with better controls. Work commenced this year on a middleware solution for the loan management system that is designed to allow smoother transfer of data between the Novitas system and our main intermediary partner. The automated nature of the middleware will facilitate transfers of a greater volume of data, giving us greater insight into how funded cases are being handled and progressed. Reduced reliance on manual reconciliation will free staff to work on more value adding activities.
Family stakeholder engagement
The strategic decision was taken this year to focus on improving stakeholder experience and increasing engagement within the Family product. Solicitor firms on the Novitas panel were assigned a dedicated Account Executive, to strengthen the relationship and give them a clear channel of communication. The business invested in Salesforce to enable monitoring of sales activity and assessment of where efforts were resulting in higher conversion rates. Having this visibility meant Account Executives were able to focus their efforts more efficiently, they were motivated to re-engage and increase the number of interactions with firms that would most benefit; the result being an improved level of service for solicitors and our employees having a valuable sense of ownership. Marketing collateral was further developed, including offering in house training for solicitors, to drive awareness of both the product and what is required during the application process, ultimately leading to better outcomes for clients in need of funding.
Our response to Covid-19
While Covid-19 has had a significant impact upon consumers, businesses and the economy, our strong operational resilience has allowed the Company to continue to operate effectively during this time.
Our purpose is to help the people and businesses of Britain thrive over the long term, and in this challenging period our colleagues have continued to focus on helping our customers and clients with dedicated service and expertise.
The majority of our loan book is structurally protected and conservatively underwritten. With the support of Close Brothers Limited we have a strong funding and liquidity position and are well placed, both operationally and financially, to navigate this rapidly evolving environment.
The support we offer to all our stakeholders has been at the forefront of the board of directors’ minds during this time, and the board has held several additional ad-hoc meetings since the beginning of UK lockdown in March to focus on the impact of Covid-19 on our key stakeholder groups. The frequency of meetings increased to a weekly basis at the peak of the lockdown, and the directors received regular updates on developments relating to individual stakeholder groups.
Supporting our colleagues
The safety and wellbeing of our colleagues is of the utmost importance to us, and we have supported them through flexible working arrangements, seeking regular feedback and making adjustments so that they can conduct their roles safely. A number of our staff have now returned to work on-site or begun to meet customers in person where it is safe to do so, but the majority remain successfully working from home, where our robust systems and technology have enabled them to perform their roles with minimal disruption and to serve our customers and clients effectively. We have not made use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme as none of our employees were furloughed during this period.
Supporting our customers
Throughout this period, we have maintained regular contact with our customers and increased their choice of channels for engagement with us, while our technology has ensured speed and simplicity in responding to their needs. We have offered forbearance and other support to customers and clients who find themselves in difficulty.
Positioning the Company response
Throughout this period, we have continued to closely monitor and adhere to regulatory guidance in response to Covid-19 and the support for our employees, customers and shareholders during this time. Our risk management processes remain robust, and our strong internal controls ensure that we remain confident in our management of the impact upon our business activities.
While it remains too early to know the full impact that Covid-19 will have on the UK economy, we are confident that our business model and the deep experience of our people leave us well prepared to respond to the challenges and opportunities ahead, protect our colleagues, and continue supporting our customers and clients.