Welcome from the CEO
2022 was an important year for NAHL and I’m proud to report on the progress that our team has delivered.
Despite the well-documented headwinds across the economy and specific challenges within our own markets, NAHL achieved its financial goals in 2022 and returned to growth. The Group increased revenues by 6% and operating profit by 14%, and we continued to invest for the future. We have strengthened our financial position, reducing our debt which ended the year at £13.3m. This was a priority given the challenging and unpredictable macro-economic environment in the UK.
Both our Consumer Legal Services and Critical Care divisions advanced their strategies in the year. Our Personal Injury business returned to profit and was cash generative in 2022 - an important milestone in our plans. We continue to grow market share in Personal Injury and our law firm, National Accident Law, is demonstrating signs of growing maturity. In our Critical Care division, we have developed our services in the year, added new specialisms and experienced encouraging early growth in our new care proposition, Bush Care Solutions.
Read James’ full CEO report on pages 7-13 of the 2022 Annual Report
At NAHL, we aim to build a sustainable business for the long-term gain of all our stakeholders. For us, this includes being a great company to work for, creating long-term value for our shareholders and also contributing to our communities and the environment.
The Group employed 283 people at 31 December 2022, which was an increase of 10% on last year driven largely by our investment in experienced people in technical areas of the law firm to support our growth and scale the business.
Due to the functionality provided by previous investments in our systems, 33% of our people now work remotely and 49% on a hybrid basis. This has been of significant benefit to our business, opening up new recruitment opportunities and expanding our access to technical legal talent to support the scaling up of NAL, as well as offering more choice and improved work-life balance for our people.
Through our company culture, we aim to maintain a high-trust environment for the benefit of everyone, irrespective of who an individual is or what they do for the Group. Our people are recruited to join our teams from a diverse range of backgrounds and experience as we believe that makes us better able to serve our customers; and we expect our leaders to engender trust with all our stakeholders by demonstrating their ability, integrity and benevolence.
The Group’s values of Driven, Curious, Passionate and Unified continue to guide how we do things at NAHL. In June 2022, our annual employee survey demonstrated the progress we are making with the culture and the strong levels of employee engagement within the Group. Our overall engagement score was 78%, which was a 3 ppt improvement on the previous year and significantly higher than the UK average of 14%.
Chief Executive Officer
Consumer Legal Services
Provides outsourced marketing services to law firms through the National Accident Helpline brand
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 UK personal injury market was subdued through the COVID-19 pandemic and this continued into 2022.
The number of claims registered in 2022 for road traffic accidents (RTAs) was down 7% compared to the prior year at c. 371,000 claims, and down 43% compared to the last full year prior to the pandemic (2019).
This reduction contrasts with traffic volumes on the roads, which moved closer to pre-pandemic levels in 2022. For non-RTA claims, such as employers’ liability, public liability, and occupiers’ liability, claim volumes registered with the CRU in 2022 were broadly flat compared to that in 2021.
We believe that the cause of this trend of lower claim numbers is due to three factors, being:
1) the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in significant behavioural changes amongst the UK population including changes to working practices and transport usage.
2) the implementation of the Civil Liability Act 2018 (Whiplash Reforms) significantly reduced compensation tariffs for most RTA claims worth £5,000 or less and eliminated cost awards for successful claims.
3) research that we commissioned in December indicated that at least £1.4bn of potential personal injury settlements were unclaimed in 2022 because of people’s reluctance to make a claim. We believe that this reluctance to make a claim and the lack of understanding surrounding the claim process is a result of a reduction in advertising by firms since the start of the pandemic.
Our analysis of these three factors leads us to conclude that whilst the size of the market is smaller now than before the pandemic, the opportunity remains very significant and there is a large latent demand that could be unlocked by a firm who can stimulate the market, educate customers on their rights and change the perception of claiming.
2022 key events
- National Accident Helpline generated 34,905 personal injury enquiries in the year, an increase of 9% over 2021.
- The brand continues to be the “first choice for people who have had an accident and want legal representation”, according to independent research.
- In June 2022, the business returned to TV advertising for the first time since January 2020 with its #TellYourStory campaign.
- We consistently grew our trailing 12-month market share of non- RTA claims from 15.0% on 1 January 2022 to 16.8% by year-end.
- We allocated 8,760 new enquiries to NAL in 2022, which was 6% more than in 2021.
- NAL won 1,894 claims in the year, 60% more than prior year (2021: 1,187) and this generated £3.5m in cash from settlements
- At 31 December 2022, NAL had grown its book of ongoing claims by 37% to 10,860 (2021: 7,918).
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. Whilst there is no official definition, we categorise catastrophic injuries as those resulting in damages worth £500,000 or more.
There were fewer serious RTA claims during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a reduction in traffic on the roads, but this was a temporary feature. Due to the severity of the victims’ injuries, this market is not affected by the Whiplash Reforms nor any reluctance to claim, as is the case in our Consumer Legal Services business.
2022 Key events
- The business supported 1,354 ongoing case management clients during the year, generating recurring revenue.
- The business delivered case management services for less complex cases through a team of in-house, employed case managers for the first time.
- Our expert witness service had a very strong year in 2022, and increased revenues by 13%. The business issued 974 reports and instruction numbers increased 7% to historically high levels.
- Bush Care Solutions, first launched towards the end of 2021, delivered revenue growth of 24% to £0.4m in 2022, delivering 10 ongoing care packages at year-end.
- Bush & Co. continued to develop its range of specialisms in the year and recruited 61 new associates in 2022 to support its growth and enhance its proposition.
Our sustainable culture
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:
- Our People
- Our Customers
- Our Suppliers
- Our Investors
- Our Communities
- The Environment
Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, we are cautiously optimistic that the Group is well placed to continue its growth and strong cash generation.
In our Personal Injury business, we plan to increase our advertising spend in 2023 to try to win further market share. We aim to continue to grow the embedded value of our ongoing claims and win more settlements in NAL, driving cash generation.
In Critical Care, we expect to see continued strong growth in expert witness services and Bush Care Solutions, with continued, but modest, growth in case management. Our upgrades to the case management and finance technology systems are due to be implemented this year, which should drive improvements in future operating profit margin over the coming years.
The Group will continue to leverage its flexible placement model to drive short-term cash flow. This, in addition to its maturing book of claims in NAL and the strong levels of cash originating from its joint ventures and Critical Care division, will enable the Group to accelerate cash collection in 2023 and further reduce net debt.