I have now had the privilege of serving as Chair of the Argus Group for over a year. I was originally attracted to Argus because of the company philosophy of always doing the right thing for employees, customers, patients and shareholders. Over the last twelve months I have seen this philosophy in action each and every day.
I have seen it in the decisions that are made at the Board level and throughout the organisation. This is the heart of the business and it is pleasing to see that in times of great uncertainty and turmoil, Argus’ culture and values continue to come to the fore.
In my first shareholder letter last year I set out my ambitions and commitments for Argus. These being:
- To deliver on an accelerated pace of growth and change. Going further, faster and exceeding our plans over the next few years;
- To deliver meaningful value to everyone who invests in, works for and does business with the Argus Group;
- To continue to reinvest in the business, balancing profitability, risk, growth and strategic investments;
- To continue to deliver increasing returns on equity, growing book value per share and improving the quality of our assets;
- To ensure that our share price better reflects the intrinsic value of our business. One of the tools we discussed was the repurchase of our own shares.
I am delighted to report that we have made tangible and meaningful progress on all of these ambitions.
It is pleasing to see that in times of great uncertainty and turmoil, Argus’ culture and values continue to come to the fore.
In Alison Hill’s CEO report she covers how Argus has delivered meaningful value to all of our stakeholders and how we are reimagining sustainable physical, financial and mental wellbeing in each of our markets.
Argus continues to lead the way in shifting healthcare systems that prioritise and incentivise lower cost, more outcome-oriented health care delivery. We know that there is a clear connection between financial security and mental wellbeing. For this reason we are intensifying our focus on our financial protection and wealth creation businesses. We recognise that financial services businesses are only just beginning to become more responsive to customers and to take a longer-term view on sustainable financial wellbeing.
In Peter Dunkerley’s report he summarises the impressive growth in our profitability, return on equity and shareholder value. But there is more than meets the eye here, we are delighted with the strength of our underlying business performance and the positive contribution from each part of the group.
The current global business environment has pushed us to think differently and innovate faster. In order to keep pace with the changes around us, we must ensure clarity of purpose, conviction of our strategies and alignment to move forward together. The leadership team and the Board will chart the direction of the Group, writing the next chapter of the Argus story.
A critical aspect of building a company that delivers enduring value to its shareholders, colleagues and customers is the quality of its governance.
Argus continues to lead the way in shifting healthcare systems that prioritise and incentivise lower cost, more outcome-oriented health care delivery.
I would like to thank my fellow Argus non-executive directors for all their hard work and active engagement both during and outside of board meetings.
A particular area of focus this year has been supporting management as we evolve and develop our sustainability agenda. A personal highlight for me is the work that we are doing on our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy. The uncompromising conversations that we are having at all levels of the organisation is absolutely the right place to start and a courageous first step in eradicating racism and bias in all its forms throughout Argus. It clearly demonstrates our commitment to creating a safe environment that encourages colleagues to call out racism and bias.
I see a business that is poised for growth with the right people to take Argus to the next level. We will intensify our shareholder communications to better share the progress that we are making in growing and diversifying Argus.
Regarding our share price, we know that Argus continues to trade at a discount to intrinsic value – well below the level warranted by a company with our consistent performance. We will continue to work on remedying this over the coming year. We ran a successful share repurchase programme during the year and while we don’t recommend that shareholders sell their shares at the current prices, we do recognise that some shareholders require liquidity which is helped by us purchasing shares in the open market. As we continue to monitor our performance in this regard, we will maintain and grow the dividends we pay to shareholders whenever possible.
Finally, I would like to thank our shareholders for their continued support and loyalty
I see a business that is poised for growth with the right people to take Argus to the next level.
David A. Brown