It relies on a recurring revenue model, so the most obvious impact of lockdown is not being able to sell products face-to-face, although staff adjusted to working from home.
READ: Personal Group chairman says firm has made an encouraging start to the year, given the current environment
Most of its policyholders are delivering essential services in hospitals, care homes, supermarkets, warehouses: even if the country goes into recession, these categories will still rely on Personal Group for insurance cover.
The AIM-listed firm, which provides hospital cash plans including hospitalisation, convalescence plans and death benefit, has also added new company-wide pandemic insurance products for its clients.
Chief executive Deborah Frost says ‘normal times’ don’t usually come with a significant amount of claims, though there has been an uptick during the coronavirus outbreak.
The increase has been minimal as 96% of policyholders are between 18 and 65 years old, an age range that has not been hit by the pandemic as severely as people over 70.
Management has done a huge amount of modelling on increased claims, but “the business is well funded”, Frost told Proactive.
The insurance arm accounts for most of the company’s profits, but there’s more on Personal Group’s plate.
The firm has three other segments: Let’s Connect, which allows employees to buy home technology through payroll deduction and salary sacrifice, the provision of e-payslips, and pay and reward consulting via Innecto.
The products are provided via Hapi, its benefits platform and app for employees to access their benefits.
As of 31 December it had 410,000 users, a 28% jump on the year before. The goal is to reach 1mln by 2025.
Revenues nearly doubled to £3.1mln from £1.8mln in a year, showing that clients are engaging with the platform.
The new message of “protecting the unprotected, connecting the unconnected” is resonating with Personal Group’s clients, Frost noted.
“We are hitting the right note as far as the employees and employers are concerned.”
Let’s Connect had a “splendid” 2019, the company said in its last trading update, with a 48% rise in the adjusted underlying earnings number despite no increase in headcount.
The team has been developing new products to meet the requirements of the NHS, which employs over 1mln workers in the UK, and is in final contract discussions with two trusts and are working with others.
However, the segment could potentially suffer from weaker consumer confidence as the crisis goes on, but if people were to opt for buying home technology, “they would do it through us because it’s so cost-effective”, Frost said.
A similar market slowdown could also impact Innecto, which was acquired last February from its majority shareholder and founder, who is Frost.
She was initially part of PG’s board as a non-executive director and was then appointed as boss once the acquisition was announced.
The addition allowed Personal Group to engage with clients earlier in their thinking around pay and reward, and to interact with a new base of blue-chip and fast growth clients typically at HR director and CEO level.
Turning to the wider group’s results, the year to 31 December ended ahead of market expectations, with revenue up 28% to £70.9mln for profit before tax up 3% to £10.5mln.
The dividend was raised by 1.3% to 23.3p per share and some distributions for this year have already been confirmed, showing confidence in the company’s potential in a moment of crisis.
The first quarterly dividend of 5.9p per share was paid in full, while the second one will be reduced by 75%.
Further payouts will be reviewed as the year progresses.
As of last week, the employee services provider had £17mln in the bank without any debt.
“We’re a 35-year-old business, we’ve been through upturns and downturns in the past – our business is based on a robust recurring revenue model and so just because we’re working from home it doesn’t mean we’ve shut our doors,” Frost commented.
“We are lifting the gaze to the next six to twelve months to see how we can get through this and get back on the right footing.”