The outlook for the Group remains very positive in a growing market. I look forward to working with our highly talented teams and experienced colleagues around the world to deliver great value for all of our customers.

Chris Stone

NON-EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN

Introduction

I am pleased to report a year of robust progress has been made against the ambitious three-year transformation programme we embarked upon under the umbrella of Securing Growth Together (SGT) last year. Our business has performed well against a backdrop of weaker UK trading, offset by good growth in the North American markets for both Escrow and Assurance. Our senior management team is now well established and they have, in turn, strengthened our teams to ensure that we are building for success on a scalable basis.

Business performance

Overall we delivered revenue growth on a continuing basis of 8% and adjusted operating profit¹ growth of 9%. On a statutory basis, operating profit increased by 44%.

Assurance experienced softer demand in the UK offset by good North American based growth. We have also continued to make good progress in Europe and Asia.

Within Escrow we have seen a decline in the UK from a combination of continued net attrition of on-premise agreements in a mature market and operational challenges from sales staff turnover issues, which have now been addressed. This has been offset by encouraging performance in North America as we continue to increase our presence there.

As our dependency on connectivity increases across society and cyber incidents become more commonplace, the awareness of the need for security continues to increase, our worldwide market opportunity grows and our breadth of expertise and geographic spread leaves us ideally placed to capitalise on this.

Strategy update

As reported with our half year results, our transformation programme, SGT, is delivering on a number of fronts in terms of how we lead the market, win business and deliver it, while supporting growth and developing our people.

The programme is ambitious and involves replacement of all of our key systems – all with the aim of creating one way of operating across the firm to achieve common actionable business data.

We have rolled out expenses and credit control systems and our new CRM system (Salesforce) has already been launched in the UK. Later this year, we will commence the roll-out of our new HR and finance systems (Workday), starting with the UK. Both projects remain in line with the original targeted launch dates. Further details are provided in the Chief executive officer's review.

Dividend

The Board has considered our business performance in the light of our continued need for investment through the transformation phase and accordingly, the Board recommends that the dividend is maintained at the current level.

A final dividend of 3.15p is therefore being recommended by the Board, making a total for the year of 4.65p. If approved, the final dividend in respect of the year ended 31 May 2019 will be paid on 4 October 2019 to shareholders on the register as at 6 September 2019 (ex dividend date of 5 September 2019).

Board composition

Tim Kowalski, an experienced public company finance director, joined the Group and the Board on 23 July 2018 as CFO. He succeeded Brian Tenner who subsequently left the Group in August 2018. Tim's biography and those of the other Board members can be found in the Board of Directors. Thomas Chambers, independent Non-Executive Director, resigned from the Board following the Company's AGM on 26 September 2018. I would like to record my thanks to Thomas for his valuable contribution during his six years as a Director.

Board governance and effectiveness

As Chairman, I am responsible for the leadership of the Board and ensuring its effectiveness in all aspects of its performance. We now have an established and experienced Board which actively oversees the Group's strategic development, monitors the delivery of its business objectives and considers risks and mitigating actions.

During the year we complied with all the provisions of the UK Corporate Governance Code 2016. As a Board we are firmly turning our attention to the requirements of the UK Corporate Governance Code 2018 (2018 Code) and will report against the 2018 Code in our 2020 Annual Report and Accounts.

We maintain our focus on an effective corporate governance framework that keeps pace with the rate of growth and change inside and outside of NCC Group. In particular, the identification and management of risk has continued to be a focus for us in monitoring progress against the SGT transformation programme and consideration of potential Brexit impact. Further information on risk management and the key risk focus areas during the year are set out in the Principal risks and uncertainties.

People

We are in a people business and our technical people are at the core of our customer offer. Our people are the cornerstone of this business and they continue to show their commitment to our business and to delivering excellent service to our customers. As we progress through the transformation programme our people are key to its success. We seek to provide challenging and rewarding career paths for all our people to ensure that we can attract and retain the very best talent.

We recognise that we still have much progress to make in terms of improving the diversity of the Board and our Executive Team and indeed our wider workforce in terms of gender. Improvement in diversity will not happen overnight but we are very mindful of the need to improve this and take positive action, and the matter is fully on our agenda and in our thoughts as a Board. For more information on gender diversity, see Sustainability, Board composition and division of responsibilities and Nomination committee report.

We take our role as a responsible employer seriously and see the UK requirement to publish gender pay gap figures as a positive move towards transparency around a key issue within our industry. We recognise that steps need to be taken to improve our gender mix at all levels as a part of our broader strategy and the investment we are making under our Sustainability agenda is supporting us to achieve this.

On behalf of the Board I therefore offer our sincere thanks and appreciation to all of the Group's employees for their continued dedication in delivering excellence.

Outlook

We look forward with confidence to a dynamic year and expect full year trading to be in line with our expectations. The next 12 months will see significant changes as we launch our new systems and look to achieve the expected benefits of having a global view of all our operations. While not without challenge, the implementation of these systems will enable us to be far more efficient and effective which in turn enables us to better serve our customers.

The outlook for the Group remains very positive in the growing market for cyber resilience. We have a unique asset in our teams of highly talented and experienced colleagues around the world, and demand for their skills and the services they create is only going to grow over the coming years. I look forward to working with them to deliver great value for all of our customers.

  1. See note 3 for an explanation of Alternative Performance Measures (APMs) and adjusting items. See note 3 for a reconciliation to statutory information.

Chris Stone

NON-EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN

24 July 2019

Read more on the business performance in the Chief executive officer's review