Risk management, which has been highlighted in the past year through the impact of an uncontrollable event in Covid-19, is integral to the way we manage the Group. The heads of each business function monitor and report on their most significant risks on a continuing basis. All risks are consolidated, shared and reviewed by the Senior Leadership Team and the Board, which has ultimate ownership of the principle risks.
We seek to manage identified risks, rather than eliminate them, to achieve reasonable mitigation against material misstatements or loss within the business. The Board reviews the risks facing the business on a regular basis to decide the level of risk that is acceptable in pursuit of the Group's strategic goals. Assessing the nature of these risks, the level of risk they present to business performance, and the way these risks may be mitigated is critical for the success of our business over the long term.
As the business grows and evolves, the Board regularly reviews its risk appetite and governance structure to ensure it is appropriate. Overall, it is noted that the Board maintains a low risk appetite.
The risks below were correct as at 30 April 2021.
The Group is largely dependent on the macroeconomic conditions in the UK as well as being exposed to changes in macroeconomic conditions internationally.
As an estate agency the Group’s fortunes are closely linked with those of the housing market and the broader economy as a whole.
Economic uncertainty, such as that created by Covid-19, can adversely affect the Group’s performance resulting in us failing to achieve our strategic objectives leading to lower market share than planned, with associated financial and reputational impact.
The success of the Group is dependent on maintaining scale through market share while operating in a competitive sector where there are many alternatives for the customer and the potential for new entrants.
The actions of competitors, and/or our own inaction, could have a significant and adverse impact on performance.
The Group has established an identifiable and respected brand which could be damaged by factors (both agent and employee led) such as unethical, unlawful or non-brand compliant activity, poor customer service, negative customer reviews or negative press.
We could lose both existing and potential customers, and suffer significant brand reputation and financial consequences.
The Group’s success is dependent on the quality of its management, operational teams and agents.
There is a risk we might not be successful in attracting, retaining, training and developing the right employees and agents.
We might be unable to effectively deliver our services to customers, and meet our strategic objectives.
The Group operates in a sector with an evolving legal and regulatory environment and monitors developments to ensure legal, regulatory and ethical compliance, with particular focus on anti-money laundering compliance, which is key to our operations.
Failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations would adversely impact the Group’s reputation and operations.
The estate agency services we provide are performed by a network of self-employed agents who are independent of the Group.
Failure by the agents to comply with applicable laws and regulations in respect of their own business activities could be detrimental both to them and the wider Group.
The Group’s website and IT environments could be the target of cyber attacks. Through such an attack, there is a risk that we fail to manage and protect both customer and employee data, or we may not comply with legal or other regulatory requirements relating to customer data security and data privacy in the course of our business activities, including in our marketing activity, agent activity and other operational activity.
We lose or misuse customer and employee data, resulting in a failure to comply with GDPR and other regulations – leading to adverse financial consequences and reputational impact.
Inaccurate financial information may result in suboptimal decisions being taken by management and inadequate financial controls could result in financial loss to the Group.
Inaccurate financial reporting may lead to suboptimal decision-making/financial loss, and the potential for misstatement in external reporting.
How they are monitored and managed
The local market conditions are closely monitored and reported on, as are the macroeconomic conditions. The Group has a flexible, scalable cost base, and holds significant cash reserves, which enables it to react quickly and effectively to changes in market conditions. We addressed the challenge of Covid-19 well, resulting in lower impact on us compared to our competitors. Furthermore, Brexit uncertainty has now passed.
The Group’s investment in marketing, service and technology has delivered a scalable, well-known and trusted brand.
We will continue to invest in our brand and in our innovative platforms to maintain a competitive advantage.
The Group actively monitors its brand sentiment and Net Promoter Scores to ensures its marketing and services reflect customer needs.
The Group strives to maintain its reputation for being a trusted estate agency service provided at a fixed fair price and monitors its customer feedback, both direct and through third-party providers, on a real-time daily basis.
Led by our Chief People Officer who was appointed at the start of the year we continue to drive the people agenda and culture change programme. We aim to provide competitive commission packages and flexible working practices to attract the best agents. We have created a strong employee brand, and invest in the recruitment, development and retention of our teams to maintain employee engagement and loyalty.
We operate ongoing monitoring of developments within the industry, embedding any changes within our systems and processes.
The Board and Audit Committee are regularly updated about changes to the regulatory environment and any particular challenges these may create.
Controls and processes continue to be enhanced with regard to anti-money laundering checking and other key compliance areas.
We operate a robust performance management and operating structure for both our agents and our territory owners. Additionally, the Group has a dedicated management team in place to manage and support its self-employed agents, while the Group’s compliance team monitors adherence to laws and regulations.
The digital team monitors the resilience of our IT systems on an ongoing basis to ensure that customers and their data are protected, by running security programmes on a monthly basis, as well as tabletop exercises/”red teams” on an annual basis.
GDPR legislation continues to be considered as part of every digital development to ensure we embed compliance within the Group’s processes. Further, all staff receive training on security, data protection and compliance matters.
The systems of internal controls deployed within the Group are designed to prevent financial loss, and improvements continue to be made in the control environment and procedures.
Controls are strongest in areas where management considers the potential exposure to the Group of material loss or misstatement to be at its greatest, including areas such as bank accounts, cash collection and revenue recognition.