The effectiveness of the Board and its Committees in discharging their duties is essential for the success of the Company. In order to operate effectively, the Board and its Committees comprise a balance of skills, experience, independence and knowledge to encourage constructive debate and challenge to the decision-making process.
The Board comprises five NEDs, the Chairman and two Executive Directors. All of the NEDs, including the Chairman, have been determined by the Board to be independent in character and judgement and free from relationships or circumstances which may affect, or could appear to affect, the relevant individual’s judgement. The independence of the NEDs is reviewed continuously, including a formal annual review. Any NED who does not meet the independence criteria will not stand for election or re-election at the AGM.
The size and composition of the Board is kept under review by the Group Nomination and Governance Committee and the Board to ensure an appropriate balance of skills and experience are represented. An external skills review was undertaken during 2020. The Board is satisfied that its current composition allows it to operate effectively and that all Directors are able to bring specific insights and make valuable contributions to the Board, due to their varied commercial backgrounds. The NEDs provide constructive challenge to the Executives, and the Chairman ensures that the views of all Directors are taken into consideration in the Board’s deliberations.
NEDs are appointed for terms of three years, subject to annual re-election by shareholders. The initial term may be renewed up to a maximum of three terms (a total of nine years). The terms of appointment of the NEDs specify the amount of time they are expected to devote to the business, which is a minimum of two and half days per month, calculated based on the time required to prepare for and attend Board and Committee meetings, the AGM, meetings with shareholders and training. NEDs are also committed to working additional hours as may be required in exceptional circumstances such as COVID-19.
NEDs are required to confirm annually that they continue to have sufficient time to devote to the role.
The Board may appoint a Director, either to fill a vacancy or as an addition to the existing Board. All appointments are subject to a formal, rigorous and transparent procedure; succession is also considered. Appointments and succession planning are based on merit and objective criteria and, within this context, promotes diversity of gender, social and ethnic backgrounds, cognitive and personal strengths. Any new Director must then retire at the next AGM and is put forward for election by the shareholders. All other Directors are put forward for re-election annually. In addition to any power of removal conferred by the Companies Act, any Director may be removed by special resolution, before the expiration of his or her period of office and, subject to the Articles, another person who is willing to act as a Director may be appointed by ordinary resolution in his or her place.
The Company’s Articles set out the policy for dealing with Directors’ conflicts of interest and are in line with the Companies Act 2006. The Articles permit the Board to authorise conflicts and potential conflicts, as long as the potentially conflicted Director is not counted in the quorum and does not vote on the resolution to authorise the conflict.
Directors are required to complete an annual confirmation including a fitness and propriety questionnaire, which requires declarations of external interests and potential conflicts. In addition, all Directors are required to declare their interests in the business to be discussed at each Board and Committee meeting. The interests of new Directors are reviewed during the recruitment process and authorised, if appropriate, by the Board at the time of their appointment. The Group Nomination and Governance Committee reviews conflicts of interest relating to Directors at least annually; periodic reviews are also undertaken as required. The Group has adopted a Conflicts of Interest Policy, which includes a procedure for identifying potential conflicts of interest within the Group.
No Director had a material interest in any contract of significance in relation to the Group’s business at any time during the year or at the date of this report.
The Articles provide, subject to the provisions of UK legislation, an indemnity for Directors and Officers of the Group in respect of liabilities they may incur in the discharge of their duties or in the exercise of their powers, including any liabilities relating to the defence of any proceedings brought against them, which relate to anything done or omitted, or alleged to have been done or omitted, by them as Officers or employees of the Group. Directors’ and Officers’ liability insurance cover is in place in respect of all Directors.
As set out in the Articles, the business of the Company is managed by the Board, which may exercise all the powers of the Company. In particular, save as otherwise provided in company law or in the Articles, the Directors may allot (with or without conferring a right of renunciation), grant options over, offer, or otherwise deal with or dispose of shares in the Company to such persons at such times and generally on such terms and conditions as they may determine. The Directors may at any time after the allotment of any share but before any person has been entered in the Register as the holder, recognise a renunciation thereof by the allottee in favour of some other person and may accord to any allottee of a share a right to effect such renunciation upon and subject to such terms and conditions as the Directors may think fit to impose. Subject to the provisions of company law, the Company may purchase any of its own shares (including any redeemable shares).