ready for the future
2021 Financial Highlights
2021 Operational Highlights
- Continued to build our fully integrated law firm, NAL, and reduced reliance on joint venture partnerships, for higher returns in the medium and long term
- Increased enquiries placed into NAL by 130%; and grown ongoing claims at year-end by 166% to 7,918 claims
- NAL processed 26% of all enquiries generated in 2021 compared to 10% in 2020
- National Accident Helpline continues to be the Most Trusted Brand contributing to organic search performance improvement year on year despite an increasingly competitive market
- 32,132 new enquiries generated in the year (2020: 36,214), reflecting a full year of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Critical Care increased the number of Expert Witness reports it issued by 21%, Initial Needs Assessment (INA) reports by 26% and ongoing case management clients it supported by 1%
- Critical Care recruited 34 new associates to grow market share and competencies
Watch Our Investor Presentation
Welcome from the CEO
2021 saw the Group make progress with the implementation of its strategy, but the COVID-19 pandemic continued to have an impact on our markets throughout the year. Government restrictions and cautious consumer behaviour supressed accident numbers and resulted in less work for our Personal Injury and Critical Care businesses. Nevertheless, we continued to make progress with our strategy, manage our debt and secure debt funding to the end of 2024, whilst remaining profitable.
We have repositioned our Consumer Legal Services division and created a fully integrated law firm, capable of generating its own leads and focused on processing higher margin personal injury claims. In our Critical Care division, we have invested in business development initiatives to grow instruction volumes and are seeing encouraging results. While these investments will take time to translate into profits, we expect them to produce greater returns for shareholders in the medium and long term.
Revenue fell by 5% to £38.9m (2020: £40.9m), in the first full year to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was primarily due to a 10% reduction in revenues in our Consumer Legal Services division, caused by a reduction in the number of personal injury accidents in the market and our decision to place more enquiries into National Accident Law (NAL) for higher future profits. Revenues in our Critical Care division grew by 9% to £12.3m (2020: £11.3m).
As a consequence, the Group’s underlying operating profit reduced by 27% in the year to £4.2m (2020: £5.7m). In the Consumer Legal Services division, underlying operating profit reduced by 31% to £3.7m (2020: £5.4m) and in Critical Care, underlying operating profit reduced by 8% from £3.6m in 2020 to £3.3m.
The Group has continued to carefully manage its cash flows while investing in its two divisions for future growth. Free cash flow (FCF) was £0.8m for the year. This compares to £6.1m in 2020, but our focus then was on increasing liquidity in response to the initial wave of the pandemic. Net debt reduced in the year to £15.5m at 31 December 2021, down from £16.3m at the end of 2020.
At NAHL, we aim to build a sustainable business for the long-term gain of all our stakeholders.We employed 258 people as at 31 December 2021. We have an experienced and capable leadership team that was restructured in the year, following my appointment as CEO. Chris Higham was appointed to the role of acting CFO and Will Herbertson to the role of Managing Director of the Consumer Legal Services division. In October 2021, we were pleased to welcome John Kushnick to the Group to take on the role of Legal Operations Director. My team and I have always believed that for a business to be sustainable, it requires an inclusive and supportive culture, with clear leadership and a strong focus on employee engagement. The Group’s values of Driven, Curious, Passionate and Unified guide us in our short and long-term decision making and our culture has helped to sustain the business through the challenges of COVID-19 and our business transformation.
Chief Executive Officer
Consumer Legal Services
- Provides outsourced marketing services to law firms through the National Accident Helpline brand and Homeward Legal
- Provides claims processing to individuals through National Accident Law (NAL), and its joint venture LLPs, Law Together and Your Law.
- Provides property searches through Searches UK.
The first half of 2021 was largely dominated by the third COVID-19 lockdown, with measures only beginning to ease during Q2. While Q1 2020 was only impacted by the pandemic for a brief period, 2021 was impacted in its entirety by the ongoing situation, and as a result market volumes fell. Market volume began to return in H2 but the rate of recovery was slower than the market had experienced following the first 2020 lockdown. As restrictions were eased this time, volumes rose at a steady pace.
- Grew the volume of enquiries processed by NAL from 26% of all claims triaged by the NAL legal support teams, up from 10% the year before.
- Began to place more non-RTA claims into NAL from Q4. In total, our law firm has around 8,000 cases currently in progress, representing a significant body of work and value to be realised in the future.
- 2021 saw the small claims reforms around whiplash RTA claims come into effect on 31st May. From the day the reforms came into effect, NAL has taken on all RTA claims generated through the National Accident Helpline brand.
- Internally, we focused on upskilling our team to ensure we had the personnel and skills in place to deliver our growth plans. By embracing hybrid working, we have been able to recruit from a wider geographical area, providing us with greater access to the best candidates to help us realise our goals.
- Externally, relationships with our key partners remain strong, including our joint venture partners, panel law firms, insurance and medical agencies.
Our Critical Care business, Bush & Co, holds a leading position providing support services in the catastrophic injury market, itself a subset of the medical reporting and rehabilitation market.
COVID-19 resulted in a contraction in accident volumes, as lockdowns and Government guidance resulted in fewer people being out on the roads, in workplaces or receiving non-urgent medical treatment. Consequently, there have been fewer case management instructions in the market since the start of the pandemic and levels remained depressed throughout 2021. The clinical negligence market, however, remained buoyant. Pleasingly, Bush & Co benefitted from the strength of its established, strong customer relationships and grew its market share through the year.
Expert witness instructions are typically received once a case is well underway, on average around three years from the date of the accident. Instruction volumes exceeded our expectations in 2021, growing by more than 21% year on year.
- Launched our proprietary report writing tool for expert witness reports, in April 2021. This tool helps to streamline the production of reports and enhances quality, whilst delivering savings as demand grows.
- Launched our differentiated case management proposition for serious injury claims valued at between £100,000 and £500,000. This service utilises employed case managers and technology solutions to deliver outcome-driven solutions for our larger customers.
- Entered the adjacent care market with the launch of Bush Care Solutions in September 2021. Having achieved accreditation for TDDI (Treatment of disease, disorder or injury) from the Care Quality Commission, Bush Care Solutions is able to offer nurse-led care management services to support rehabilitation in a client’s home.
Our sustainable culture
You can read more about Our Sustainable Culture on pages 43 – 49 of our Annual Report
The Group is aware of its responsibilities towards its stakeholders and its values underpin its approach towards stakeholder relationships. The Group has identified its key stakeholders as:
The progress we made in 2021 to increase the number of claims being processed in NAL and the careful management of our investment leading to a reduction in net debt will continue into 2022 as we look to grow the number of enquiries we generate, increase the number of claims we are processing in NAL, and develop our pipeline of work in Bush & Co.
In our Personal Injury business, enquiry numbers for the first two months of 2022 were up 42% compared to the same period in 2021. We allocated 31% of these enquiries to NAL, compared to 23% for the same period in 2021.
In Critical Care, early indications for 2022 are promising as both the number of reports issued and level of instructions generated have seen growth compared to the same period for 2021.
Now that the last of the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, we expect to see mobility levels across the UK continue to improve and for this to result in a gradual increase in the number of accidents in our markets.