Section 172 Statement
The Directors confirm they have considered their obligations under S172 of the Companies Act 2006 including their duty to promote the success of the Company and how they have engaged with the following key stakeholders in the business:
The Company focuses on making the customer the heart of our business; and having respect for every customer and always treating customers fairly.
The Company has gained a significant understanding of the kind of simple hire purchase motor finance suitable for our customers. Some of our customers may have impaired credit records, which have seen them in the past unable to access rigid and inflexible "mainstream" finance products. The Company provides transparency, simplicity, clarity and suitability to both service and product, which these customers require.
As a result, the Company received just over 2 million applications in the Year Ended Jan 2022 (2021: 1.5m) and has written over 211,000 customer hire purchase agreements since starting trading in 1999.
With an eye to the future, a working group has been set up to track the development of the electric vehicle market and the company expects to be able to introduce more of our customers to this market over the next few years. Although electric vehicles currently only comprise about 3.5% of the UK car parc, the market is growing strongly. Indeed 28% of new vehicles sold this year were either electric or plug in self-charge hybrids.
The quality of our relationship with introducing brokers, dealers and our customers is based upon a continuous and relentless search for product and service improvement. Successful business is the result of a thousand small improvements rather than a very few revolutionary ones. In recognising the importance of its statutory obligations and relationship with the FCA in ensuring that customers are treated fairly, the Company's care for its customers has historically been central to its success.
The Company's success depends upon its proven ability to adapt to a changing economy and labour market and the impact they may have on our customers. We appreciate that the customers life journey evolves over their loan term. This demands that responsible lenders continually analyse repayment behaviour, and then use it, within the collections department, in dealing with and supporting our 62,000 customers.
The outcomes of this customer engagement are reflected in high customer satisfaction ratings, low levels of complaints and above all the Company's success over the last two decades.
We ensure that all staff receive appropriate initial training and regular re-training in the field and in areas of specialism. We encourage employees to gain professional qualifications where appropriate and external management training is also undertaken. As required by legislation, we confirm that as an organisation, we respect and recognise human rights in all aspects of our business.
The FCA Regulatory regime is centred on our Treating Customers Fairly. All employees within the Company are required to demonstrate appropriate knowledge and skills. Annual appraisals highlight areas of training needs for all employees and Advantage Finance is an accredited investor in people.
The Company's policy is to give full and fair consideration to applications for employment by disabled persons, having regard to the nature of their employment. Suitable opportunities and training are offered to disabled persons in order to support their career development. It goes without saying that a Company based on a family ethos has no truck with discrimination of any kind â except of course on the basis of performance. People prosper and are promoted within the Company purely on merit.
Our Business Partners
Advantage Finance continuously seeks to nurture and improve key business relationships with our key introducing brokers, dealers and key suppliers.
Key actions taken demonstrating how we do this are set out in our strategic report above. The outcomes of these key actions are reflected in the positive feedback and high retention rates for our partners and in the steady, sustainable and successful growth of Advantage Finance in the past two decades.
Our Investors and Funding Partners
We are 100% owned by our parent Company S&U plc and funding is organised on a Group basis. S&U's significant family management shareholdings means an identity of interest between shareholders and the management of the Group and together with help from trusted advisers, the Group maintains close relationships with investors, analysts and also with long term funding partners. The outcomes of this funder engagement help the strong balance sheet and treasury position of the Group and Advantage.
Our regulators and other statutory bodies
Advantage Finance has a strong compliance culture which is overseen by management and the Audit Committee with help from our internal auditors RSM.
During the year, RSM have continued to provide internal audit services for Advantage Finance. An agreement, overseen by the Audit Committee, has now been entered into with RSM who will be responsible for regular internal audits of Advantage's Regulatory Controls, Customer Compliance, Risk Management and Governance Policy and Procedures.
Our Community and Our Environment
The Company does not exist in a vacuum. Our success depends upon our understanding of the customers we serve. Where this may not be the case, we have well established policies for any who may wish to complain, routed to our Customer Services Department. Our records demonstrate we enjoy high levels of customer satisfaction and 67 of only 86 complaints which reached the Financial Ombudsman Service in the year were decided in Advantage's favour (2021: 44 of 74 complaints were decided in the Company's favour). In the year to 31 January 2022 56% of complaints which reached the Financial Ombudsman Service were related to the satisfactory quality of the vehicle (2021: 74%) and therefore not related to operational issues within Advantage.
In July 2019 the Financial Reporting Council issued a joint statement with other regulators on how companies should report on the effect of their activities on climate change. This follows the Government's publication of its Green Finance Strategy which anticipates mandatory disclosures by 2022. However, there is an exemption for subsidiaries if disclosures are made within the Group accounts.
In assessing the Advantage Finance engagements within our 6 stakeholder areas above, the directors have also ensured such engagements reflect Advantage's values, business model, key performance indicators and principal risks as set out in the strategic report above.
Health and Safety and Diversity Policy
Advantage takes its responsibilities towards the health, safety and good working environment of its employees very seriously. It seeks to provide a congenial, safe and productive working environment. In 2020 a new building was refurbished for employees at Advantage which will improve and maximise space, ensure Covid safety and provide better break out areas.
It therefore goes without saying that in a Company where family values are so prized, and where staff turnover is so low, that workers are always treated fairly without any form of discrimination. Recruitment and promotion decisions, whilst reflecting the social and racial makeup of the areas in which we operate, are always based on ability and aptitude, not according to any racial or gender stereotypes.